Day 1

Day 3

Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
I'm not what you would call a "believer". Things either Are or Aren't, and everything else is fodder for laughs or chills, tears or thrills. I do not admit the existence of serendipity, fate, synchronicity, synergy, kismet, or karma. The most I'll agree with is, Shit Happens. And definitely some shit happened on Day 15 in Osaka, enough to grease the gears of speculation in the sumo world for, at the very least, the next two months. 

Let's start from Ozeki up. Now unlike Martin on Day 13, I do not feel that the gifts that have been handed to Kaio strictly constitute "yaocho", which to me means "an all parties involved plot to fix a bout". I do, however, have to say that he is shown a ton of respect from the younger guys, maybe so much so that they don't give their all when he is looking for his 8 wins late in the tourney, or perhaps they don't capitalize on openings in his front that they might otherwise jump on vs. other wrestlers. How the big lumbering senior citizen managed to defeat Kise the Kid AND Ama will remain a mystery forever...unless you're NOT an idiot. Today Ama held Kaio's shoulders for about a minute, putting up some stiff resistance to make it look "good"? and was finally thrown down. Light, fast, weasel slick Ama, with 8 wins tucked into his mawashi by Day 14, stood there like a fireplug and let the big dog wee all over 'em. No tugging, pulling, tripping, running around to outflank, nothing. That's Japan and Japanese sumo, where being an elder means a whole hell of a lot. Think of it what you will.

Next came, I'm sorry, like my wife he had a widdle headache, the poor thing, got a doctor's note and everything. Chump.

Next came Hakuho vs. Kotooshu the Average, who had gotten his 8th win on Day 14. Hakuho stood his ground at tachi-ai, went for the belt but couldn't get it as Kotooshu, as he does in just about every bout, managed to switch places with his foe. From there the Bulgarian made a charge, but Hakuho used his left arm to perfection, pushing Kotooshu's face to the side as he came in, sending him sliding down to the clay hanging onto Hakuho like he was a greased pole. I can only imagine what kind of havoc Hakuho or Tokitenku would wreak if they possessed that incredibly strong and long frame that Kotooshu has. If he could just learn to use those huge arms, smack people with fine timing and then get in and kill them on the belt. All he needs is a new stablemaster. No offense, but Kotonowaka oyakata just ain't getting it done with his star pupil.

So then came the final bout, Asa vs Chiyotaikai, and chaos ensued. For some reason, the Yokozuna decided to henka, just slapping the hapless Wolf's Pup down in less time that it took to swallow my tongue. As I lay there on the floor searching for a broomhandle to bite down on, I heard the NHK English announcer say, "That (hatakikomi) officially takes the 'Great' out of his title 'Great Yokozuna'". Hey, let's not get silly here. It was a shitty move to see, actually hurt my tummy to watch, but let's keep it in perspective. A tachi-ai hatakikomi is a move that ALL the Ozeki use at least once or twice every two basho, with Kotooshu and Chiyotaikai doing it even more often than that (Tochi isn't so big so he just steps to the side every three bouts). This is the first time I can recall seeing Asa pull it, and only the second funny tachi-ai (the ketaguri vs Kise last year) he's dished out as Yokozuna. 

I said it then and I'll say it now, Asa is an all-timer, and he has earned the right 20 yusho over to do wussy sumo every once in a while. People who would now despise him for it are making the same error in judgment that many people make in relationships. For example, man has a loving wife who busts her ass for years and years raising the kids and keeping a fine home, and then one day he comes home and finds her on her knees in front of the handyman daintily dabbing a napkin at the corners of her mouth and it's Boom, I want a divorce! Treats her like she's some girlfriend of three months, fercryinoutloud. Doesn't even stop to consider all the years of good that went before. Well I do take the past into consideration, which is one reason why I'm such a happy, well adjusted guy. 

As for why he did it, there occur to me a few possible reasons. 

1.) He wanted to stick it to Chiyonofuji, the clueless Kokonoe Oyakata who, being the absolute darling of sumo for so many years now cannot even BEGIN to imagine the shit that foreigner Asa has had to put up with his entire time in Japan as he ascended to Yokozuna, dominated the sport, and closed in on hallowed records, and who felt it was his duty to publicly question Asa's wrestling. The only bad taste in Kokonoe's mouth should come from watching his loser of a Pup, who, like Kotooshu, probably could have benefited from a change of oyakata, one who would have taught him some belt wrestling when he was young.

2.) He was fearful of having Chiyotaikai, infamous for doing it, pull the exact same move on him. Preemptive strike, the Bush Doctrine comes to o-zumo.

3.) Rightfully seeing Hakuho as central to and Chiyotaikai as incidental to sumo today, but wary of the possibility that some fluke thing might happen, like Asa slips or Chiyotaikai pulls his topknot and the MIB, Japanese to the core, don't call it, he wanted to make sure he got to the playoff at all costs so he could contest the only bout that REALLY mattered.

Whatever the reason, he reached the playoff where Hakuho, eager to go, came out of the shitakubeya earlier than the Yokozuna, and then proceeded to stand at ringside alone. Finally, once both men were on the dohyo and the announcer had read their names, Asa stood as usual for the first salt toss and entrance into the ring, but Hakuho stayed squatting down for about thirty seconds, gamesmanship if there ever was such a thing.

And then Hakuho completely jumped out of the way, letting Asa's hand brush the clay for the Ozeki's second career yusho, smiling fiercely as if to say, Gotcha! The Yokozuna simply laughed and walked off the dohyo and back to his room. There were probably lots of people cueing up their Ratt greatest hits album and thinking, What goes around comes around.

But of course, that's not how I see it. I see it like this. Hakuho has not made his name, he's all promise and potential, and it is not his job to stick it to the Yokozuna. It's his job to beat The Man straight up and he didn't do that. This is how he wanted to take his first yusho at a basho where Asa wasn't absent? Let's assume for the sake of argument that Hakuho thought Asa's win vs. Chiyo was unfair, or weak, or whatever. It's still none of his fucking business. Two wrongs don't make a right (three lefts do). Personally I feel that Hakuho will remain silent and let it be believed that he was teaching the Yokozuna a lesson, but deep down, he is happier than shit to get the title in such a scurrilous manner while having a built in excuse for doing it.

Just so it's clear: They are not equals. Asa's henka was disappointing, but Hakuho's was egregious.

Kotomitsuki was on the prowl for his first double digit basho in a looooooong time and he got it when Kisenosato got ticked that Hit was bringing it bigtime and so he started slapping high near the face like he did with Asa earlier this basho but that just let the Sekiwake in deeeeeeep and from there it was sanyaku just got pushed a basho further away for the youngster.

The Geeku filled in the last circle on his scorecard white by doing to Dejima what Dejima used to do to others, namely using that great belly to bounce his opponent back and out like Winnie the Pooh molesting a jar of honey. Sucks that the shin-Sekiwake bit it the first week, hard, but the close leaves a glimmer that he won't drop below Komusubi for May. I have a feeling he will be at large and in charge there with 9 wins at least.

Tokitenku tried the same double stiff arm vs Homasho that he used effectively vs Takamisakari the other day, but Homasho is quite a bit more man than Circus, and he brushed it off and pushed the shin-Komusubi out in a flash. I'm not so sure about the honorable Kenji's prediction of Ozeki run by year's end, but barring injury this guy is for sure an Ozeki by the end of 2009.

Toyonoshima made sure that he will never be less than former Komusubi Toyonoshima
 in retirement by everyone's favorite underachiever Roho. After stiffing the big guy at tachi-ai, Toyo made a bad decision and tried to pull the Russian fella down, only to find himself at the edge and in trouble. However, Toyo used his youthful dexterity to wiggle free as he twisted Roho's body forward and out. Like us, Roho had that look on his face, as if to say, How in the name of Darwin did I lose again? I'm glad, after that shit he pulled on rookie Tochiohzan on Day 13. SLIGHTLY stepped to the left, Martin??

Did you check out the sweat on Kitanofuji in the announcing booth? Dude, one word: WHITE shirts.

Houdini ran out of tricks today vs. Tochiohzan as he hit hard at tachi-ai, then as he often does bent low to pull his foe forward, so far so good, but when he ran around to grab the belt and run him out, Tochi spun around, yes, nimbly, and drove Takami out to his back to form 8th loss, with four losses coming in the last five days. An incredible debut for the debutante, and it is THIS guy, along with Homasho, that the Japanese public ought to be watching, not Kisenosato. Homasho and Tochi seem to have cool heads, and that will prove to be the difference between their careers and The Kid's.

Kokkai got some of his own medicine today vs. Wakanosato, who launched his bid for return to the upper ranks with an impressive 11-4 record. The former perennial at Sekiwake hit the big Georgian hard at tachi-ai, then immediately started pulling him down, and it worked like a charm. Still, Kokkai has nothing to be ashamed of this basho as he took on his opponents straight up just about everyday, including the rookie Tochiohzan, and was beaten by five men who finished with 11, 11, 11, 10, and 8 wins respectively. Should be up around M2 come May.

If W14 Tosanoumi does fall to Juryo in May (and with both 15s and a 16 posting kachikoshi, it looks like he may), he at least went out with a bang today vs. Tochinonada, who failed not only to win with his strong left hand inside grip, but failed to pick up his 8th win. Tosanoumi looked to be in a world of pain as Nada shoved him to the edge, but the former Sekiwake unleashed a bear of a nage and sent the other former Sekiwake down hard. It was a brilliant move, and one we have seen from both men time and time again.

Tokitsuumi destroyed Hakurozan for his 8th win, and virtually assured Roho's bro of a Juryo go come the May basho, yo!

There were many things I liked about Kakuryu's sumo this time out, but one thing in particular was how he beat three guys who beat him in January, Tokitsuumi, Kasuganishiki, and finishing the revenge off today vs Tochinohana. It says something about a rikishi when he can learn from his mistakes. He posts a 9-6 in just his third basho at the top by grabbing a hold of Tochinohana and by sheer muscle willpower twisting the veteran former Komusubi into the ground. His 6 losses came to men with 11, 11, 10, 10, 9, and 7 wins. He could develop into another Ama, given the right tutelage (hnn hnn, he said tutelage).

That's all for me, been a rough week, relative died and that is a draining process, obligation wise, here in Japan, no matter if the relative WAS 152 years old. May you all enjoy the next two months, until we meet again to see what kind of whoopin' Asa puts on Hakuho! Bye-bee.

Day 14 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
And then there were two. Rookie sensation Tochiohzan came into today still with a mathematical chance at becoming the first shin-nyumaku to yusho in 93 years but alas, it wasn't to be. For the second day in a row, he got hit with a harite slap to the face at the tachiai that seemed to derail his aggressive de-ashi. A chink in the armor of the new kid? Perhaps. Chalk it up to good experience. The kid's made the biggest splash in quite some time when it comes to a Makuuchi debut. The harite was administered by Mr. Sekiwake Kotomitsuki, who followed the slap with a quick hatakikomi win to bring his win total to nine. One more win and he can start making noise for another Ozeki bid in May. Tochiohzan falls to 10-4.

So when the dust clears, even after the horrific start, Asashoryu is right in the thick of the yusho hunt after all. It will be him or countryman Hakuho, who was Sho's opponent today. Both opened Osaka with losses, and of course we know Sho opened with consecutive losses. Since then Hakuho has reeled off 12 straight and Sho 11 straight to come screaming back into the picture. But with a Hakuho win today, the yusho is his and the cup is determined on day 14 for the 5th consecutive basho. But alas, this wasn't to be either. The way I saw this bout play out, an overanxious Hakuho rushed his attack which resulted in him pretty much losing his balance and falling forward. It was more Hakuho losing it than Asashoryu winning it. Sho was just going with the flow and Hakuho was a bit out of control and tight I believe, as he tends to get in big matches. I was particularly disappointed in the content of this bout given every clash between these two over the last year have been absolute beauties. They were all relatively long and intense yotsu-zumo battles. So to see a 3 to 4 second excuse me hikiotoshi win by Sho here was a bit anti-climactic for me. Nonetheless, the result makes the following scenario very much more likely: As if Asashoryu needs another stamp in the record books, he can become the first man in 98 years to yusho after having dropped the first two bouts of the tournament, should he win tomorrow and potentially win again in a playoff with Hakuho. The two are now even at 12-2 apiece.

The rest of the bouts were kinda disappointing also. This must have been "Hikiotoshi or Hatakikomi Appreciation Day" in the jo'i. Not only did the two feature bouts above end with this result, so did both bouts involving the rest of the Ozeki. In a must-win situation for two Ozeki coming into today 7-6, Kotooshu got by Chiyotaikai via, yes, Hatakikomi shortly after the tachiai. It was Oshu who got the coveted 8th win to go 8-6 while Taikai falls to 7-7. Why did I label this a "must-win" for both men? Well, Kotooshu, who has had a very disappointing basho, has Hakuho tomorrow. Poor Chiyotaikai takes on Asashoryu with kachi-koshi on the line. See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya. Can you say umpteenth kadoban?

That brings us to Kaio, who continued the "Pull-down Parade" with a spineless Hatakikomi win against Takekaze (6-7) without even a clash at the tachiai. I found myself yelling "Come on!" at the TV after seeing yet another bout light in content. But one side of me says, you know what, look at Kaio. He's only had his right toenail peeled off and a bum left shoulder this basho. With his back against the wall at 5-7, he needs wins, period. And that's what he did yesterday and today to manage 7-7 going into senshuraku. To escape kadoban yet again for this embattled veteran, Kaio will have to overcome the feisty Ama tomorrow.

Just to keep with the theme here, Toyonoshima lost to Kakizoe via Tsukiotoshi shortly after the tachiai. Zoe gets win #8 and Toyonoshima (7-7) puts it all on the line tomorrow. Whatever the outcome, he has turned in a valiant effort at M1. 

The best bout of the day was Homasho vs. Ama in my opinion. I say that because this kid Homasho is blossoming something huge this basho. Previously befuddled by Ama in both prior meetings, today Homasho absorbed Ama's busy push attack and pushed back twice as hard to win with a statement making oshi-dashi. This kid looks for real, folks. I'm thinking Ozeki candidate by the end of the year. Homasho improves to 9-4 while Ama is still a respectable 8-5. 

Also picking up 8 wins today was Shimotori and Tochinohana, who has come roaring back after a rocky 1-4 start. 

I'll end on a sad note. At least for me anyway. My favorite rikishi for years, Tosanoumi, suffered his 9th loss today at M14. The 35 year old veteran is in serious danger now of dropping to Juryo in May. Tosa is currently second among active rikishi having competed in Makuuchi for 70 basho, behind only Kaio at 82 basho. I guess you could call this a changing of the guard (just humor me). Tosanoumi of Kochi prefecture is in the twilight of his career. He is now passing the torch to another Kochi-ken rikishi, the young phenom Tochiohzan. Just thought I'd give a little love to Shikoku island, which doesn't generate a lot of Makuuchi rikishi and doesn't get a lot of publicity in general. 

Let's hope for an interesting final day tomorrow. It was good reporting to you again--I had a job transfer at the end of the year that kept me busy but it feels good to be back in the saddle!

Day 13 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
It's Friday, the 13th day of the 2007 Haru Basho. If you think that means anything, then you better not break any mirrors and turn around when black cats cross your path. Or you could read an encyclopedia entry on superstition and be done with it. However, no amount of salt thrown on the ring will ever help any rikishi against the demon Yokozuna, who seems ever so closer to making history again, winning 11 bouts in a row and making the unbelievers forget his shocking 0-2 start.

Today he was up against Ozeki Kotooshu, who came hard at the tachiai, leading with his head and driving Asashoryu a step back. But the Mongolian didn't make it to his current rank by chance, so he stood his ground and, while denying Kotooshu any sort of belt grip, he pulled the back of his head and fatally threw him off balance. From there, oshidashi was a simple formality. The Russian brothers, along with Kakuryu and Chiyotaikai should study this bout in detail, because the Yokozuna's timing of that pull was perfect. Asashoryu will probably defeat Hakuho tomorrow to force the playoff, but who knows? If Hakuho wins, he secures the yusho on day 14, and, if Kotooshu should fail to beat Chiyotaikai (and for that reason alone he should consider retirement), I'll be out on yaocho watch on senshuraku.

And speaking of the y-word...Kisenosato took one for the Japanese team today. A drop from M1 to M2 or 3 ain't that big a deal when you're 20, but kadoban is a big deal when you are Ozeki Kaio. At the tachi-ai, Kisenosato was driven back at the tawara, with the Ozeki showing great, uh, lower body strength. They did try to make it look good, though, and Kisenosato wasn't forced out right away. He was allowed the right outer grip, took several seconds to reinforce it, but all he could come up with after all that time was one measly fold of the loose mawashi. He then attacked, but not very convincingly. Kaio didn't even need the tawara to stop the charge. By then, the Ozeki had mysteriously gained morozashi and he met no resistance at the edge from the younger opponent. If this is not yaocho, I don't know what is. Kaio will have Takekaze brought forth to the slaughter tomorrow. Kisenosato falls to his make-koshi.

Yusho hopeful Hakuho met fellow Ozeki Chiyotaikai. The latter shot from the shikiri-sen like a blood-lusting bullet with both hands to Hakuho's neck. The Mongolian was hardly moved by the charge, however, and all he had to do was step out of the way when he noticed Chiyotaikai lose his footing. Chiyotaikai spectacularly plunged to his sixth loss, and kachikoshi is less likely than even Tochiohzan's yusho, with Kotooshu and Asashoryu left to fight. Hakuho faces the real test tomorrow.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki came too high at the tachi-ai against M5 Homasho, allowing a left frontal grip on his mawashi. He was ushered from the dohyo in mere milliseconds, hardly worth talking about. Kotomitsuki already has his staple eight, so he'll probably relax further. Homasho is having another good basho with 9 wins already.

The other Sekiwake got the better of his tachi-ai against M4 Futenoh and got his left arm deep under his opponent's armpit. He then wisely kept Futenoh upright instead of opting for the shitate and drove him out, finishing with his patented gaburi. A four bout winning streak for Kotoshogiku, but with makekoshi on day 9 he's likely to get demoted even if he manages to win his remaining matches. Futenoh is having a nightmare with only 2 wins so far.

Next up, Komusubi Ama stepped to the right to partially avoid M4 Takekaze's usual cannonball charge. Kakuryu fans (are there any??) will probably be outraged again, but that's where the similarity between the two Mongolians ends. Ama's fighting spirit is like 1,037 times greater than Kakuryu's, because when he was driven to the edge, instead of trying to dive out of the way, he dug in hard and attacked, unsuccessfully trying to get some sort of belt grip. Driven back, the heavier Takekaze evaded at the edge and almost had Ama, but he was greeted with some stinging thrusts to the face. The Mongolian then quickly switched into reverse and bowled Takekaze down and out by the back of the head. Ama gets kachikoshi from the Eastern Komusubi rank and will rise to Sekiwake, with Kotoshogiku's impending demotion. Takekaze will take another one for the team tomorrow and should return to calmer waters.

The other Mongolian Komusubi dished out some cruel punishment to Takamisakari's face and neck straight out of the starting lines. He wasn't able to finish the pulldown job, but in the process Tokitenku managed to get a nice fat right-hand grip on the back of Takamisakari's mawashi, working his way to the side and felling his strange opponent with a well-executed kirikaeshi. Tokitenku's parents must have done a lot of acid in the 70's, because this guy sure can trip. It's still beyond me why they robbed him of that nimaigeri on day 7. Shukunsho is one win away. Takamisakari is having a decent tournament with a 7-6 record so far.

Kokkai delivered a poor tachi-ai against the much smaller Toyonoshima, allowing him to get an early morozashi. I have no idea whatsoever as to what Kokkai was trying to do, reaching for the belt like that. Anyway, Toyonoshima just pushed and near the edge he grabbed the Georgian's leg. One final desperate pull-down attempt had both wrestlers collapse rather simultaneously, but in the end they gave it to Toyonoshima, and rightfully so. Toyonoshima has two more days to get kachikoshi, whereas Kokkai already has 9 and 'should' dismantle my favorite Mongolian tomorrow.

In a battle of the M2, Kyokutenho got the better of the tachiai and quickly grabbed an advantageous right uwate. His opponent, Mongolian Asasekiryu, struggled to get the right outside of his own, but Kyokutenho didn't give him any time to use it when he got it, as he surged forward and drove Asasekiryu out. Both men are having trouble this high up in the rankings.

M3 Kasugao was given a break today, facing M10 Kasuganishiki. He charged half an instant earlier, but that didn't stop him from letting his opponent slip both arms inside. The Korean, however, didn't waste any time and just wrenched the unhappy Kasuganishiki to the clay by his trademark kotenage for the fourth win. Kasuganishiki will be taking some time off to Juryo after this horrible basho.

The battle between M5 Tamakasuga and M12 Yoshikaze proved once again that size does indeed matter. The veteran slammed hard into his younger foe and the impact took him a full step back and made him slip and just fall flat to his face. Tamakasuga wins his third. Yoshikaze ain't getting any bigger.

Future Juryo Hakurozan stood up at the tachiai and allowed M6 Kakizoe to get morozashi right away. In about half a second the whole thing was over. It was characteristically lazy sumo from Hakurozan, who falls to 4-9. Kakizoe still has a shot at promotion with 7 wins and two days left.

Roho's 6-6 record before the bout with new Japanese sensation Tochiohzan should have had anyone foresee the maneuver. The Russian slightly stepped to the left to get the left uwate. He did get it and easily forced Tochiohzan out; experience won today against youth. Of course, some will say the challenger never had a chance, but that maneuver was so obvious that even a guy from way down in Sandanme should have been able to read it. Roho is looking out for #1 with 7-6 while Tochiohzan will get some prizes with his impressive 10-3 and has a bright future ahead of him, unlike his opponent.

Dejima met fellow freight train Tosanoumi in what was to be the most linear affair of the basho. Dejima proved to be stronger yet again, but that's no surprise, not even the almighty Asashoryu could withstand his charge. Tosanoumi gets makekoshi while Dejima has to win on both remaining days to get eight.

There's hardly anything worth mentioning from the remaining bouts, but I'll try anyway. Wakanosato improved to a quiet 9-4 dispatching Aminishiki with a katasukashi after dominating the entire bout. Of course, the MIB called it hikiotoshi, but what do they know, right? Aminishiki isn't having a bad week either, but when you're that low on the banzuke it's not even relevant.

Before getting to the actual bout, I'm going to say "I told you so" for predicting that Kakuryu (who is still ranked way above where he should be) is slowly turning into Kyokushuzan. He pulled a monstrous henka against Takamisakari yesterday, and STILL lost. As Mike would put it, I was doing cartwheels (actually, I only poured myself a fine drink and stretched that long arm to pat myself on the back). Kakuryu must have heard because today he showed some spirit against M9 Tochinonada. To my surprise, Kakuryu won the tachi-ai and managed to get a nice right uwate while driving the larger opponent back. He soon went back to his methods, and backed away dragging Tochinonada to the ground by uwatenage. This guy is amazing, even when he attacks he's retreating.

Well, that's enough for today, but don't you dare miss the rest of the tournament. For the first time in ages we have an actual yusho race going into the last two days. And as I've mentioned before, if Hakuho wins tomorrow and Kotooshu loses, I can almost bet money on Kotooshu's victory in their day 15 bout. Asashoryu will surely have a say in this though. Kaio should pull through with help from the Kyokai and it will be interesting to see just how much he's willing to go on. Tochiohzan looks promising and Toyonoshima might just make it to Komusubi. In a nutshell, things are looking more interesting that usual.

Kenji tells you all about it tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Bernie McManus reporting)
Dang me, was there something in the water tonight or what? I'll give props to the crowd for being good and noisy but they had some fine, fine sumo action to cheer on. On top of everything else the top of the leader board stayed intact with Hakuho, Asashoryu and the newest native scare, Tochiohzan, all scoring decisive wins.

Oh, and let's take a moment for three kesho-mawashi missing from the dohyo-iri belonging to Baruto, Miyabiyama and now Tochiazuma who it turns out has been suffering from more than just foreign rikishi these past five days. Anywhoo, in the hopes of getting this done before Martin whips off day 13, let's fire through what the lower Maegashira have to offer.

The evening starts a bit slow with Shimotori going 6-6 by beating Jumonji by yorikiri, sending him to his make-koshi. 

Satoyama and Tosanoumi locked up briefly but with a sidestep and speed to spare, Satoyama outmaneuvered the aging ex-Sekiwake and beat him by oshidashi. Satoyama is at Juryo-4 but with a 10-2 on the scoreboard his big fists should be back in the lower Ms in no time. Tosanoumi is pretty close to the bottom of said Ms with a 5-7 record.

Fellow Juryo seat filler Ryuo finally got the ball rolling by literally bowling Ushiomaru with a hatakikomi pulldown. Ryuo now has his kachi-koshi while Ushi steps to make-koshi. 

Yoshikaze added a fourth win to his losing record after his spirited tachi-ai against Tochinohana lead to a crowd endangering yorikiri force out/mutual launch at the edge. Hana sits even as the fans start to pay attention. 

Then it's Hakurozan pushing Aminishiki back by the throat for a moment before giving up morozashi and being thrown from the ring as Ami falls, but wait, gumbai to Hak, that gets reversed, respective kachi and make-koshs given out. 

Wakanosato vs. Tamanoshima could have been better with Tama taking a hari-te slap but gaining morozashi and winning by force out. Both men reached eight wins yesterday.

Roho has been lackluster, to be generous, and tonight was thrust down by Tochinonada into a very fitting superman dive off the dohyo. Roho falls to 6-6 with Nada one win from his kachi-koshi.

Then Kakuryu decided to put a smile on my face by pulling the mother of henkas on Fat Takami. Right over his shoulder, vwoosh! But Fat Takami was unimpressed, turned to meet the Kak's next charge and stood his ground nicely until he gained the inside and forced him out. Ah, henkas that are exciting and reversed, can I think of a better argument for them than that?

Kakizoe and Tokitsuumi threw out some armlock and pulldown attempts before Zoe ran him over the edge with good and messy frontal pushdown oshitaoshi. Both men have leveled out at 6-6.

Then Tochiohzan, ah, is anyone else getting nervous here? Not that going 10-2 from M14 is that big a deal, but it's his first basho in the elite, and he's been walking straight through a lot of the competition. Going back over his videos, he's just picking up and disposing of one opponent after the other. Suffice to say that I'm looking forward to his last three days in the basho, and I would love to see him getting a piece of playoff action come Sunday. Today he took out fellow newbie powerhouse Homasho and demolished him by tsukiotoshi after backing him up against the bales. He's up against Roho tomorrow and then perhaps later he'll sample some sanyaku in his debut? 

Tamakasuga clashed with Iwakiyama impressively before gaining morozashi and starting his charge. Waki spun and kept him off the belt, however, and was able to belly him out by yorikiri. Moon face earns his fourth win against a make-koshi while Tamakasuga has two wins to his name. 

Futenoh then got stood up and dropped by Kasuganishiki, although both men started the night at 2-9 so we'll move along without further ado.

Kyokutenho stuffed Dejima with a no-nonsense henka and earns my mercy kill award. When these two meet each other it ain't ever pretty. Dej sits at 5-7 and Kyoku doubles up to 2-10. 

Asasekiryu then got turned sideways at the tachi-ai and gave up a deep inside belt grip to Kasugao. Still, the Korean was unable to capitalize and after failing to trip Sekiryu over his knee he was quickly thrown off his feet by the Mongolian. Both men put on an entertaining match for having already falling to make-koshi.

Ama hammered into Toyonoshima from the tachi-ai and after a few quick tsuppari managed to land a deep uwate grip. Once again it proved to be the touch of doom, although Toyo nearly pulled out a kotenage before being painfully reversed by the Mongolian's specialty uwatenage. Ama is one away from his kachi-koshi at Komusubi while Toyonoshima is even at 6-6.

Takekaze came in too high against Tokitenku who used morozashi to quickly usher him out leaving both at 6-6.

Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku, both struggling to keep their top spots, put on a fine display of yotsu-zumo before going all-or-nothing at the edge. Kotoshogiku came out on top for a fourth win but has unfortunately already hit eight losses. Kisenosato has seven with five wins.

Kotooshu has once again fallen from the tournament leaders with days to go. He's had some great wins this basho, as usual, and some painful losses, also per usual. Tonight was more of the later as Kokkai delivered an enormous shoulder blast from the tachi-ai and then slipped past a clumsy thrust to take the Bulgarian from behind. Both started tonight on the cusp of their kachi-koshi, I guess the M7 wanted it more than the Ozeki.

Hakuho crossed Kotomitsuki off his list of worries tonight by securing a double inside grip after the initial tachi-ai and marching Koto out backwards over the tawara. You know it was weighing on his mind by the way he pranced back to his corner. He faces Chiyotaikai tomorrow which usually goes in his favor, ditto for Kotooshu who he should face the next day. Day 15 however is a tough call but I think Asashoryu will probably force it to a playoff.

Speaking of whom, Asashoryu faced off against Kaio in a rather lengthy bout with the Yokozuna struggling to keep Kaio from his belt. Kaio was soon on the defensive, however, with a great thrust from his hips he finally bucked Ozeki from the dohyo for his seventh loss. Kaio needs to win the next three days to avoid kadoban status while Asashoryu needs three, and possibly a few more, to avoid breaking his yusho streak. 

I gotta say this didn't seem like the usual bag of bland force outs and slipups. There was a lot of great action tonight with some big throws, henka, yotsu-zumo hip shakes and even a gumbai reversal. Let's hope Tochiohzan continues to come on strong too 'cause that would be one legendary playoff for the lad.

Martin's here tomorrow to gush all over Day 13.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's been five basho since we've entered the shubansen, or final five days of the tournament, with the yusho up for grabs, so we gotta savor every moment. Tochiohzan and Homasho are just two more new faces to the sport that must be encouraging to the elders in the Association and the Japanese fans at large. Said fans packed the house today as we had a host of great matchups on paper, a scenario we are likely to enjoy the rest of the way. Coming off of the Shukan Gendai yaocho allegations and Asashoryu's freakish two losses to the start the tourney, the sport has recovered nicely and put the focus back in the ring. Let's shift gears a bit today and start with the leaders before working our way down the list.

In the featured bout of the day, Ozeki Hakuho was flawless in his attack of M5 Homasho going for that left grip at the tachi-ai but setting it all up with a smashing right shoulder to his opponent's torso on the other side. As is usually the case, Hakuho was denied that left belt grip, but his newfound tsuppari attack came in handy today as he used a few quick shoves to effectively stand Homasho upright and lurch into the moro-zashi position. From there it was all she wrote as Hakuho immediately drove his opponent back and out sending him off the dohyo and into the lap of the head judge. This was precision sumo at its best as Hakuho thoroughly dominated his opponent. I hate to see Homasho lose more than anyone, and of course the sold out crowd on hand was disappointed too, but as Hakuho accepted his prize money and stood up, he received a very nice applause from the Osaka faithful who had to appreciate the sumo they just witnessed. Now, before I gush too much about our leader, he has his hands full tomorrow in Kotomitsuki. In fact, I'd say at this point, Hakuho has a better chance of losing to Kotomitsuki than he does to Asashoryu. Kotomitsuki is just a bad matchup for him because the Sekiwake's speed can allow him to bounce off the Ozeki at the tachi-ai and attack from the side. Nevertheless, Hakuho is still in sole possession of the lead at 10-1 while Homasho is knocked down to the three-loss tier. How badly does Homey want that day 1 bout back against Tamakasuga?

In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Asashoryu used a rather cautious tachi-ai leading with his head as opponent Tochiazuma often does and using his right arm to push at the Ozeki's left shoulder keeping him from coming all the way out of his stance. The move was effective in that it completely opened up the right outer grip, which the Yokozuna grabbed straightway while using his left on the inside of Tochiazuma to keep him at bay. With Tochiazuma neutralized and nothing but a feeble left inner grip, Asashoryu had the luxury of working his right hand under all of the folds of Tochiazuma's belt, and once secured, he wasted no time in throwing Tochiazuma down via uwate-nage. This was powerful stuff form the Yokozuna who has regained his form and keeps himself just one loss back at 9-2. Tochiazuma falls to 8-3, and while he deceived everyone nicely prior to the basho by saying he would retire after a bad start, his actual condition (not bad, but not yusho) has been exposed by the quality rikishi.

Moving to another battle of two 8-2 rikishi entering the day, I'll go out on a limb and guess that those cheers as M7 Kokkai and M14 Tochiohzan stepped on the dohyo were for the 20 year old sensation. Tochiohzan didn't disappoint again today by ramming the top of his head into the left side of Kokkai's face causing the Georgian to flinch and taking away any hopes of a tsuppari attack. For the first time this basho, Tochiohzan quickly switched gears following up his great tachi-ai by moving a half step back and to his left pulling at Kokkai as he went. The result was Kokkai's hitting the dirt a second and a half into the action. Yeah, you usually want to see a dude win moving forward, but when a solid tachi-ai is used, and the win is so decisive, there's nothing to complain about. Tochiohzan cruises to 9-2 and better be careful or he may find himself dating an Ozeki down the stretch. Kokkai falls to 8-3 but was never a threat to the yusho to begin with.

Who can forget last basho when the red hot M1 Toyonoshima (then ranked at M12) was paired with Kotomitsuki on senshuraku and actually beat the Sekiwake in rather humiliating fashion? That bout had to be on Kotomitsuki's mind today as he finally got his rematch. Actually, I think it was on Toyonoshima's mind as well because he looked a bit intimidated at the tachi-ai today allowing Kotomitsuki to slam into him and then step to his right in an attempt to grab the outer grip on Toyo's belt. Hit and Mitsuki didn't get the grip he wanted, but he was now at the side of his opponent and able to grab the back of Toyonoshima's belt with that right hand positioning his arm on the inside of Toyonoshima's left side in the process giving him the position that Asashoryu gets before he administers the tsuri-otoshi. At this point the bout was over despite Toyonoshima's attempt to wrap his leg around the back of Kotomitsuki's leg and counter with some sort of neck throw. Kotomitsuki would have none of it as he stayed low and easily forced out Toyonoshima picking up his eighth win in the process and keeping himself just two losses off the lead. Toyonoshima falls to 6-5, but there is absolutely no shame in his performance thus far. You can't help but to root for this guy.

M8 Tamanoshima picked up his kachi-koshi today thanks to a rather lethargic tachi-ai from M4 Takekaze, and even though you'd think the rikishi wouldn't dare to yaocho this basho in the face of the Shukan Gendai articles, I couldn't help but question this bout. One of the surprises this basho has been Takekaze who raced out to a nifty 6-4 start despite his M3 ranking. Today, Takekaze looked to have the much better tachi-ai, but instead of lowering himself and driving Tamanoshima back, he just sorta stood there in the center of the ring and righted his posture a bit. On the other side Tamanoshima was pretty upright himself and definitely wasn't in a stance to execute a powerful forward attack. Nevertheless, Tamanoshima pushed Takekaze back and out with seeming ease to pick up his kachi-koshi. I'm not buying it and am calling yaocho on this one. I don't see why Takekaze wouldn't gladly give a bout up. He's already got six wins, and frankly, I think he'd be a bit more comfortable a few notches down the banzuke rather than higher up. I mean, it's not a big deal at all....I just smelled something fishy today. If you have the means, go back and watch the bout.

And while I'm on the subject of yaocho, I got a kick on the first day of the basho when the news showed those signs posted on the dressing room doors saying rikishi or tsukebito were forbidden to enter the dressing room opposite from the one they were fighting from that day. A major piece of Shukan Gendai's "evidence" on the alleged scandal was Kyokutenho's tsukebito, Kyokutenzan, who would frequently go back and forth between both the East and West dressing rooms visiting with a myriad of rikishi. They claimed that Kyokutenzan was the messenger working the deals, and the Sumo Association even went as far as relieving Kyokutenzan of his tsukebito duties this basho just to be sure. Excuse me, boneheads, but can I just suggest two words here to explain how such security is being breached? Text messaging. Consider the bout thrown as Tamanoshima moves to 8-3 just two losses off the lead although no one is taking his run this basho seriously. No harm no foul for Takekaze who falls to 6-5.

M16 Wakanosato clinched his kachi-koshi today with perhaps his best sumo of the basho. Having M11 Iwakiyama as your opponent, though, will do that to you. The former Sekiwake led with an effective right slap to Iwakiyama's grill that thankfully couldn't do any more damage to his face than has already been done, but allowed Wakanosato to get his left arm on the inside. Wakanosato used the left inside position brilliantly to knock Iwakiyama upright before counter-attacking with the right arm pushing at the back of Iwakiyama's left pit spinning him sideways where Wakanosato finished his opponent off by pushing him out by the back of the belt. Wakanosato was quick in his delivery, and he's going to need that speed if he hopes to play with the big boys again in the future. At 8-3 he's just two off the lead. Iwakiyama falls to 3-8.

Before we get to the rest of the action, let's review the leaderboard after day 11:

Hakuho is your sole leader at 10-1. He has the luxury of losing again and still taking the yusho IF he can beat Asashoryu
Asashoryu and Tochiohzan are one loss back at 9-2. The Yokozuna controls his own destiny, a position which none of his opponents likes to see. While he's a helluva rikishi already, there is no way that Tochiohzan will overcome the pressure and quality opponents he'll face the rest of the way.  Tochiazuma, Kotomitsuki, Homasho, Kokkai, Tamanoshima, and Wakanosato check in two losses back at 8-3, but I don't see both Hakuho and Asashoryu falling back to this level so fuhgeddaboutit.

Of all those names you see on the leaderboard, it is a travesty that Ozeki Kotooshu's name isn't counted among them. One of the most anticipated bouts of the day featured Ozeki Kotooshu vs. M1 Kisenosato, but the bout would prove anticlimactic as Kotooshu executed an incredible tachi-ai driving with his lower body and coming in low so that he actually secured the moro-zashi position straightway. The Ozeki never relented in his charge and had Kisenosato forced back and out so quickly no one had time to catch their breath. With Kisenosato clearly having been pushed out and standing in the corner of the dohyo, Kotooshu added a double shove sending Kisenosato clear off the dohyo. "dame-oshi" is what the Japanese call that extra shove, but today, I call that frustration. There was nothing to be frustrated about regarding his sumo as Kotooshu murdered his opponent with such precision that nary a bloody glove was behind. Problem is there's been plenty to be frustrated about all basho for the Bulgarian because no one knows better than him that his name belongs on that leaderboard. He has wasted another tournament with bad tachi-ai and half-assed sumo, so I can feel his pain. The dude's gotta figure out, though, that he has to fight all of his bouts as if he were fighting a rival. Oh...and any bets that the Japanese press isn't going to point out Kotooshu's extra-curricular activity today? Thanks for the double standard fellas. Kotooshu moves to 7-4 while Kisenosato finds himself in familiar territory of late at 5-6.

In the battle of the old and worn Ozeki, Chiyotaikai began the bout with his usual tsuppari, but I don't know how much his heart was into it because Kaio easily gave him a slap to the side with the right hand spinning Chiyotaikai 90 degrees and giving Kaio a smothering right belt grip. Kaio attacked immediately with the position and as Chiyotaikai offered token resistance at the edge, Kaio (5-6) turned the tables a bit wrenching Chiyotaikai (6-5) down with the left arm on the inside rather than forcing him straight back with the right grip. Nothing flashy here as you just let these deserving veterans have the spotlight for a minute before you focus on the more interesting bouts of the day. Text message anyone?

If there's one thing that Sekiwake Kotoshogiku needs this basho, it's a weak opponent. Problem is there aren't many of them in his range. Even the dudes like Toyonoshima and Takekaze, who I thought coming into the basho wouldn't put up much of a fight, have looked great giving the Geeku two more reasons to fret. It was all good today, however, against M2 Asasekiryu who must not be able to push with his legs because he has been quite useless this basho. The two hooked up quickly in the hidari-yotsu position where after diggin' in a bit with that lower body, Kotoshogiku began his patented gaburi yori attack where here he sort of hops forward using his belly to force his opponent back. It worked nicely today, but it's far too little far too late from the Geeku who has greatly disappointed in his sanyaku debut. Both rikishi are 3-8.

Two rikishi that have quite the rivalry going even though you don't notice it because it usually occurs in the Maegashira ranks are our two current Komusubi, Ama and Tokitenku. Today, Ama used a quick tachi-ai to slam his head into Tokitenku's gut and grab the quick right outer grip. Ama dug in keeping his body low, but this allowed Tokitenku to reach over the top and grab a right outer of his own. Ama pressed the action first, however, and used his much lower positioning to drive Tokitenku quickly back to the straw where he straightened up and used is entire body to force Tokitenku completely off the dohyo. This wasn't the usual long drawn-out circus affair we usually see from these two where one has the other hopping on one leg or in the bum-rush position, but I'll take this brand of solid sumo any day. Ama sneaks out to a 6-5 record while Tokitenku falls to a dangerous 5-6.

In the battle of the 1-9 hapless, M5 Tamakasuga used some stubborn defensive tsuppari to keep Kyokutenho away from his belt as the Mongolian chased the old-timer around the ring. At the ring's edge, Kyokutenho looked to have Tamakasuga trapped, but the grizzly veteran forced his way into the moro-zashi position and after some terrific standing around in the middle of the ring, Tamakasuga thankfully ended the funny bidness with a maki-otoshi throw. This was hardly worth the time it took to stop the visual fast-forward of my tape to watch the thing, but props to Tamakasuga for taking a one bout lead on Kyoku-one-and-ten-ho.

M7 Roho used a left harite at the tachi-ai against M3 Kasugao before just jumping to his left altogether implementing an ugly tachi-ai henka to gain the cheap left outer grip. From there it was easy peasy as Roho drove his compromised opponent back and out. This is obviously a move where the Russian is scrambling to secure those eight wins at any cost. He's inching closer at 6-5 while Kasugao suffers make-koshi (3-8) to no one's real surprise.

M8 Dejima picked up his fifth win today by...well just showing up against M4 Futenoh. This is getting ridiculous. Dejima easily got his left arm on the inside of Futenoh's right side standing him up and driving him back with ease aided by a right outer grip obtained on the other side. Futenoh looks sorry this basho at 2-9 while Dejima has life at 5-6. And that's all I have to say about that.

M6 Takamisakari was denied his seventh win by a solid left outer grip from M10 Tokitsuumi at the tachi-ai. Tokitsuumi wasn't satisfied with just the left outer grip and wisely looked for a belt position with the right causing the Robocop to fend off the attack on one side all the while by being driven back by Tokitsuumi's left outer on the opposite side. I'm not one to pass judgment here, but Takamisakari looks like a dude that has trouble doing two things at once, so make him worry about the right hand while the left grip does all the work, and it results in the easy force out win. Both rikishi are 6-5.

In a downright sloppy affair, M11 Kakuryu was all too happy to retreat after M6 Kakizoe bested him at the tachi-ai. The Mongolian began one of those marches around the perimeter of the dohyo where he slaps at his opponent's side as he evades, and too his credit, when he caught Kakizoe off balance, he tried to finish him off with a pushing attack of his own, but Kakizoe returned the favor slipping to his side now throwing Kakuryu a bit off balance. When Kakizoe went for the kill, Kakuryu had recovered enough to jump to his side causing Kakizoe (5-6) to attack into thin air and basically throw himself to the dirt. Confused? So am I. Kakuryu moves to 7-4.

M9 Aminishiki has made a bit of a charge lately if you take away his ass-kicking at the hands of Tochiohzan yesterday. Today, M15 Shimotori was very proactive in grabbing a left outer grip from the tachi-ai and attacking straightway, but Aminishiki didn't panic and focused on setting up for the better position as he retreated that allowed him to counter attack with a left inside belt grip that was too much for Shimotori to handle. This was good stuff from Aminishiki who moves to 7-4 by winning seven of his last eight bouts. After a hot start, Shimotori now finds himself at 5-6.

Isn't it interesting how M9 Tochinonada could care less if he ever got an uwate. Today the left uwate was wide open after a smashing tachi-ai, but he opted for the left inner position instead. M13 Hakurozan complied by grabbing the right outer grip on that same side, and the yotsu contest was on. You know a rikishi is in trouble when he goes for the sotogake leg trip as a means to avoid being thrown down to the clay, but that was really Hakurozan's only choice today as the Russian went for the move early on. A one-legged hop with your other leg wrapped around your opponent who is firmly grounded to the dohyo ain't gonna cut it, and Tochinonada wasted no time in shaking the pesky Hakurozan off and throwing him to the dirt with force moving to 6-5. Hakurozan falls to 4-7, but getting his ass demoted down to Juryo has proven as hard as smashing an ant crawling across carpet. You'll maim him for an instant or two, but by god if you can't kill him without just picking the sumbitch up and rolling him in your fingers like a hard snot.

What am I even talking about anymore? Okay, one more and I'm out of here. As bad as M10 Kasuganishiki has been this basho, he's been a good measuring stick to show how even worse some of his opponents could be. I hate to do this to him, but M12 Yoshikaze looks terrible this basho. His tsuppari attack has been lacking that good lower-body drive and has been forcing him to abandon it too quickly. Kasuganishiki parlayed his size into the easy oshi-dashi victory today by wiping off Yoshikaze's weak thrusts and pummeling him backward and out with his own solid shoves. Dare I say that Kasuganishiki improves to 2-9? Yoshikaze suffers make-koshi fate at 3-8, but still has that Makuuchi paycheck and free trip to Hawaii in June to fight for.

On the docket tomorrow, Hakuho faces the pesky Kotomitsuki who has beaten the Ozeki twice in row; Asashoryu gets a break with Kaio; Kotooshu and Kokkai look to claim Eastern European bragging rights; and the men will be separated from the boys with Homasho vs. Tochiohzan and Wakanosato vs. Tamanoshima. Bernie will work overtime to tell you all about it. 

Day 10 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Osaka 2007 is definitely one of the most exciting basho for quite some waxings and wanings of the moon god, the reason being, of course, Asashoryu's unbelievable start. But polarity is gradually being restored as the leader board takes on a more familiar feel coming in to the final few days. Day ten was an excellent day of sumo for all the family. And don't forget Gran! Or even the aging but ever faithful canine. Yes, the Haru Basho is straight out of The 4th Dimension.

Getting straight to the action, Yokozuna Asashoryu met his favourite bitch, Sekiwake Kotomitsuki, who (as usual) put up a fantastic fight. The Sekiwake came out with his patented smash tachiai, which Asashoryu gladly accepted. The Yokozuna pulled and attempted a trip but Kotomitsuki did very well to stay on his feet and recover, and then pulled off an even more amazing escape as he spun to avoid being caught from behind by Asashoryu. A short stalemate ensued, followed by a weak uchimuso (this means to sweep the thigh and at the same time yank an arm down) attempt by the Yokozuna, who was really reaching into his bag of tricks. The failure of this move pulled Kotomitsuki forward, and he threw caution to the wind and went for the kill. However, we got to see yet another facet of Asashoryu, one we don't see all that often: his defense at the edge. Keeping out from in front of the attacking Kotomitsuki, Asashoryu showed fine awareness of the location of the tawara and stepped sideways while grabbing the body of his opponent. He then allowed Koto's momentum to help him out and down. The Yokozuna could not resist that trademark extra shove to remind Kotomitsuki yet again that he runs the show – Whip It good! It was a fantastic bout, with plenty of ups and downs for both men. Great sumo, great spectacle, and no, peeps, it wasn't fixed! Asashoryu (8-2) marches relentlessly on to a likely senshuraku play-off with Hakuho. Kotomitsuki falls to 7-3. And screw you, Shukan Gendai...thanks to your detailing of alleged Strange Pursuits in sumo, I want Asashoryu to go on and win 33 or more career yusho more than ever...and you scurrilous bastards to go out of business. It's Not Right.

In today's only all-Ozeki match-up, Hakuho fought the decidedly sluggish Kaio. Hakuho did very well to get past Kaio's cautious tachiai, clearly intended to keep the deadly Mongolian away from the mawashi. In fact, Kaio looked so worried, his arse was almost in the crowd, which is no mean feat. Hakuho, however, was not to be denied and he got the left uwate after a bit of Jerkin' Back 'N' Forth, and then displayed awesome strength to throw the huge veteran across the dohyo like a rag-doll. There was only ever going to be one winner in this one, but Kaio won't have enjoyed being reminded that he is no longer anywhere near the top of the pile, even if he is ranked fifth overall on paper. Hakuho keeps sole possession of the lead at 9-1. Kaio is in serious trouble at 4-6 and, with Asashoryu still to fight, is likely to be kadoban next tournament.

Digressing slightly, I called Hakuho (pictured right) mad the other day for going with tsuppari so much, but I reckon he is doing this on purpose to counter the problem of rikishi learning how to read him. He is probably trying to make his sumo less predictable, and that is a laudable idea. It's paid off so far, certainly, but he's needed luck along the way. I just can't understand why he doesn't always go for the left uwate mid-bout when it's wide open, as he did today. Ha-de-ha-de-ha...could it be yaocho?? Read the next edition of the Shukan Gendai for the inside story.

Ozeki Tochiazuma (8-2), pictured left, picked up an easy win over M3 Kasugao (3-7), getting a left-uwate grip straight from the tachiai and showing excellent timing to pull the hapless Korean round and out by uwate-dashinage. With this winning record, Tochiazuma can keep his Ozeki rank and forget about retirement. Now he can concentrate on putting up a decent fight in the yusho race, although I suspect Clancy will not be eating dog shit on Sunday night for dinner. Enough Said.

In one of the most anticipated bouts of the day, Ozeki Kotooshu met the almost equally handsome M5 Homasho. The young lad executed an excellent low tachiai, showing superb concentration, and forced Kotooshu upright, not giving the Ozeki any chance to defend himself as he kept low and in front of his opponent to push him out. This was excellent sumo from Homasho, who has come on in leaps and bounds in a very short time. I'm starting to revise my opinion – maybe he does have what it takes to survive at the top after all – but sumo is about consistency, not the occasional good basho. Whatever, that's a kachi-koshi for him. Kotooshu continues to fail utterly to live up to his potential at 6-4, and may well be Through Being Cool.

It was a case of Slap Your Mammy for Ozeki Chiyotaikai (6-4), who put on the display we have all come to know and love/hate, as he came out with his usual tsuppari attack against Komusubi Tokitenku, realized he wasn't going anywhere, so went for the hatakikomi win. Chiyo is good at this kind of sumo, simply changing a tactic that is failing - there's nothing wrong with this kind of pull-down win – but as a formerly strong Ozeki, he won't enjoy doing it so much. He knows he's in the last years of his career so I guess he has to keep the rank in whatever way he can. Tokitenku has had a fine basho so far, beating the Yokozuna and two Ozeki, and should be up for the Shukun-sho if he can manage a winning record. He was just Out Of Sync today.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (2-8) is simply not firing this basho. In a must-win-to-save-some-face bout today against M2 Kyokutenho (1-9), who is also having a nightmare in Osaka, he was given an easy win as Kyokutenho gave up morozashi with uncharacteristic ease, allowing Kotoshogiku to walk him out. Kotoshogiku only has Tochiazuma left to fight from the big boys and will want to limit the damage as much as possible over the home stretch. The less said about Kyokutenho the better. A Big Mess, basically.

Komusubi Ama did a fine job of totally screwing M4 Futenoh, manhandling him and staying slightly to the side while immobilizing the Vulcan's left arm. After a brief pause to collect his thoughts, the Mongolian did the obvious thing – yanked on the arm – and pushed the floundering Futenoh (currently living proof of the validity of the concept of de-evolution) out for the easy win. Ama is 5-5 after fighting Asashoryu and all the Ozeki (except Kaio, who ain't no Ozeki these days) and will be mightily happy with that. Futenoh is frankly a disgrace at 2-8. How about bringing a bit of passion to the dohyo? Love Without Anger isn't love at all, after all. Watch a few Asashoryu bouts for more details.

M1 Kisenosato (5-5), most likely still nursing a PIERCING pain in his liver from where that EVIL Yokozuna VICIOUSLY kicked him WHEN HE WAS DOWN and HELPLESS (just providing a literal translation (with emphasis) of what happened in the Asashoryu-Kisenosato bout if you read the Japanese press), today met up with M1 Toyonoshima (6-4), another rikishi having a fine basho. This mouth-watering clash turned out to be a total gift for Toyonoshima, who was allowed morozashi straight from the tachiai courtesy of an ineffective harite from boy wonder that left him open. If you're gonna slap someone at the tachiai, make it a real one, not a bitch-slap, you great big ponce. Toyonoshima calmly herded Kisenosato out for the yoritaoshi win. A disappointing bout from two of the more exciting prospects in sumo – it certainly made me Shrivel Up.

M7 Kokkai is still looking a steady Eddie. He needed all that poise today as he walked into a morozashi grip for M6 Kakizoe. The gyoji screwed up his call, giving it to Kakizoe, despite Kokkai clearly keeping his feet inside the tawara as he executed the desperate kotenage while Kakizoe (no doubt thinking it was Christmas) drove forward. Fortunately for Kokkai, a mono-ii was called and the decision was rightly reversed, meaning that the judges are not racist after all. Hurrah! Or do they only rule in favour of the foreigner in inconsequential matches like this one? Hurrah! Or are some fans simply way too paranoid? Hurrah! Whatever – Kokkai gets his kachi-koshi today, the first for three basho, and it is thoroughly deserved. Kakizoe looks way too erratic and falls to 5-5. He will need a Ton O' Luv from his new wife to propel him to kachi-koshi.

M14 Tochiohzan took advantage of an excellent tachiai against M9 Aminishiki, able to get both arms inside and wrap the tricky technician up. It was then a simple matter of pushing the little fella out. Tochiohzan secures a day ten kachi-koshi and will now surely get a special prize – the kanto-sho most likely – a real Triumph of the Will. If he can keep in the yusho race until Friday, he might even get something else. A dream debut basho for him. Aminishiki could do nothing after losing the tachiai so badly but is generally having a decent basho at 6-4. Sadly for him, his loss today snapped a six-day winning streak (after losing on the first three days).

M11 Kakuryu was given a thorough schooling by a very genki M16 Wakanosato, who wrapped up the youngster's arms after a swift harite, went forward and then twisted back to pull off the kotenage. Kakuryu had no time to even think of a defense in this bout. Fine sumo from the veteran, who improves to 7-3 and will surely get at least ten by Sunday. Kakuryu can still afford a few mistakes at 6-4.

So, great entertainment today. Hakuho is leading with one loss. Behind him lurks the ominous spectre of Asashoryu, along with Tochiazuma, Tochiohzan, Kokkai and Homasho. The match-ups for tomorrow are brilliant: Asashoryu v Tochiazuma; Hakuho v Homasho; Kotooshu v Kisenosato (they hate each other); Kotomitsuki v Toyonoshima; Ama v Tokitenku; Kokkai v Tochiohzan! Oh my God!! And there's even one for the old-timers: Chiyotaikai v Kaio. DO NOT MISS DAY 11, or indeed any of the remaining days of this basho.

Eric Cartman reports tomorrow...I hope.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Go back one year ago when Tochiazuma was in the midst of his run for the Yokozuna rank, and you remember an Ozeki who would usually dismantle his opponents in five seconds or less. Even this basho, you go back and look at a majority of his wins, and they came seconds after the tachi-ai where the Ozeki hit hard, used his patented push from the left side, and disposed of his foes in short order. When Tochiazuma is on, he takes care of bidness with precision. When he's shaky, he stands around in the ring and waits for the action to come to him. Seven days in it was extremely difficult to put a finger on Tochiazuma's true condition despite his 7-0 start, but two days and two damn good opponents later, the picture has become clearer.

Let's kick the action off with Yokozuna Asashoryu who took another PR beating after day 8 for kneeing Kisenosato in the back after the bout was already over. We've all seen it where Asashoryu is involved in a heated contest and then gives his opponent an extra shove or slap even after they have exited the ring. Nothing usually comes of it until after the basho when Makiko Uchidate, token female member of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, brings it back up in an effort to criticize something about the Yokozuna. However, after the Kisenosato incident, the Japanese press tried to make a big deal out of it saying it wasn't just a was a kick! Kick shmick, what's the difference? The news outlets tried to add fuel to the fire by all using the same quote afterwards from Kokonoe-oyakata, head judge on duty for the bout. Know why they didn't use anyone else's comments? Because nobody else really thought anything of it...until the press made such a big deal of it. It's just another attempt by the Japanese media to take the focus off of Asashoryu's accomplishments on the dohyo and steer it towards an attack of his character. Now, if Asashoryu had flat out kicked Kisenosato in the nuts, that'd be a different story, but I'm officially downgrading the kick to nudge. End of story. 

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku was on the end of Asashoryu's beating stick today as the Yokozuna gained morozashi from the tachi-ai after Kotoshogiku briefly flirted with a left uwate. Game over right? Not so fast. The Geeku countered nicely with some effective right kotenage throw attempts that halted Asa's charge and made him rethink his attack for a split second. The problem was the failed kote-nage throw left Asashoryu at the side of Kotoshogiku, so after regrouping, Asa forced his way closer into the position we see him in before he administers the tsuri-otoshi. The Yokozuna actually lifted the Geeku briefly off his feet, but the Geeku shook the move off. The Sekiwake wasn't going to have any more of it, however, because once his feet landed back on the dohyo, he more than obliged by diving to the clay at the next hint of pressure from his opponent. Shitate-nage was the official winning technique as Asashoryu moves to 7-2. Is it me, or is Asashoryu back on the war path? If the Yokozuna were tied or in the lead, the yusho would be his, but he still trails the one rikishi who ain't afraid of him in the least, which should provide for some great drama down the stretch. Kotoshogiku falls to 1-8 with the loss and looks to be in for that 3-12 performance we see from him once a year.

Moving on to our first of two Ozeki duels, Kotooshu used...wait a minute...a tachi-ai henka today against Kaio? The henka was so weak that Kaio survived it easily, but in this position, Kaio's only choice was to use a pushing game to try and nudge Kotooshu across the straw, but Kotooshu is just too quick and lunged for a left inner grip of Kaio's belt. Normally, that's a dangerous position for anyone because Kaio has that right kote-nage throw in his arsenal, but without that initial momentum from the tachi-ai, Kaio wasn't in position to score with the move. Kaio did go for that kote-nage--hell, he had no choice--but Kotooshu used his lower body to perfection to pivot to the side of his fellow Ozeki and easily force him back and out. I really didn't have a big problem with Kotooshu's henka in itself. It wasn't pre-mediated because I know what that looks like. The thing that was most troubling to me is that Kotooshu was so lost in his tachi-ai. He has one of the weakest opponents he'll face this basho and he can't convince himself to just charge forward and kick his opponent's ass? I don't know what to be more disturbed about...the fact that Kotooshu didn't have enough confidence in himself to beat Kaio straight up or the fact that somewhere in this world a dude is alive who actually inspired Shakira to lament "tell me what's the use of a 24-inch waist if you never touch me." Kotooshu moves to 6-3, but he ain't beating both Asashoryu and Hakuho in this mental state. Where's the Red Bull and cigarettes when you need them? Kaio falls to 4-5.

In the featured bout of the day between the two rikishi atop the leaderboard with 7-1 records, Ozeki Hakuho looked a bit nervous at the starting lines coming up quickly from his stance after he had initially committed with both fists to the dirt. As he and fellow Ozeki Tochiazuma reloaded, Hakuho was much calmer when things got going hitting his opponent well and forcing that right arm of his on the inside far enough to set up another rare left uwate. Tochiazuma countered on the opposite side with a left outer of his own leaving both rikishi in the gappuri migi-yotsu area Tochiazuma had to avoid this bout. One of Hakuho's weakness of late has been the haste in which he tries to defeat his opponents. Twas the case against Kisenosato on day 1, and it burned him last year against Tochiazuma as well. Today, however, he took his time and made sure that his legs were firmly planted before beginning his methodic drive of Tochiazuma back and out with that smothering yotsu position. Tochiazuma played completely into Hakuho's hands in this bout and was dominated for doing so. Tochiazuma's losing two days in a row doesn't bother me nearly as much as how he did it...or rather, how he didn't do it. Gone was the solid tachi-ai followed up immediately with the otsuke move, the Ozeki's bread and butter. Tochiazuma just looked deflated as he walked back down the hanamichi, but the dude's gotta pick himself back up and realize he's not out of this having already faced two of his toughest three opponents. Tomorrow's bout against Kasugao will be telling. The Ozeki must finish the Korean off in five seconds or less or he's in trouble. A third consecutive loss would send him into a tailspin. Hakuho, on the other hand, moves into sole possession of first place at 8-1 and just seems to get more solid the further along we go.

I must say I have been impressed with M1 Toyonoshima this basho. The dude has not been intimidated from this rank as most rikishi are their first time. Coming in, everyone knew that Toyonoshima wanted to get on the inside of Chiyotaikai including the Ozeki himself, so he used a left paw to Toyonoshima's neck at the tachi-ai holding him at bay, but Toyonoshima never relented and fought off that neck grip to force his way inside and Chiyotaikai backwards. At this point, everyone knew that Chiyotaikai was going to go for a pulldown including Toyonoshima himself, and when it came, he was ready to catch the Ozeki as he evaded to his right and shove him out of the ring before he hit the ground himself. This was excellent stuff from Toyonoshima who moves to 5-4 picking up his second Ozeki scalp of the tournament. Chiyotaikai's error today was the same committed by Asashoryu on day 2 against Miyabiyama. In short, he tailored his sumo to his opponent, rather than trying to use his own bread and butter (the tsuppari) to kick his opponent's ass. He falls to 5-4 with the loss.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki wisely didn't settle for yotsu-zumo today against M3 Kyokutenho, rather he got his right arm on the inside of Tenho's left side, lifted him upright briefly, and then went for a powerful scoop throw that felled Kyokutenho with ease. I think the key here was that Kyokutenho was expecting a long drawn out affair from Mitsuki, so the quick attack caught him off guard. Kotomitsuki was Hit today as he moves to 7-2. Kyokutenho has been Miss all basho falling to 1-8.

Komusubi Ama grabbed the early frontal belt grip of M2 Asasekiryu, but Seki countered well with a left arm wrapped around Ama's right telling his opponent the kote-nage throw could come at any moment. As the stalemate ensued on that side, the two rikishi next looked to score the upperhand on the other side where Ama's left hand touched Asasekiryu's belt, but Seki pushed inward on it nicely to neutralize the move. Ama finally popped up into the moro-zashi position, but his lower body was nowhere to be found, and as he tried to force Asasekiryu back, Sexy countered with a brilliant right kote-nage throw to defeat his opponent. Ama losing with the moro-zashi position? Tis rare, but he looked tired today and didn't start his charge from the legs up as he falls to a dangerous 4-5. Asasekiryu ekes his way to 2-7.

In an ugly affair, Komusubi Tokitenku survived a retreat-and-pull tachi-ai from M3 Kasugao and countered well with some tsuppari that kept the Korean far away from his belt. Coupla things that just never come to fruition: weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Kasugao winning by oshi-dashi. Without any sort of yotsu position, Kasugao was easy pull down fodder for the Mongolian who moves his record to 5-4 where a Shukunsho awaits if he can get to eight. Kasugao falls to a respectable 3-6 considering his position on the banzuke.

In the Maegashira ranks M4 Futenoh's head crashed straight into M1 Kisenosato's nose at the tachi-ai standing the Kid upright and shocking him to the point that Futenoh was able to drive him dangerously back with a good left arm position on the inside, but Kisenosato gathered his wits about him quickly and dug in at the tawara countering with a right grip that he used to force the action back to the center of the ring. From there, Futenoh already seemed defeated as he allowed his opponent to trade in his outer grip on one fold of the belt into a fist full of all three flaps. Futenoh has got to attack here or at least throw his hips out of the way while Kisenosato is fiddling with a better grip. He didn't, and he paid the price as Kisenosato easily forced Futenoh back and out from there. The Kid is 5-4 while Futenoh continues to flounder at 2-7.

M4 Takekaze proved the genki'er rikishi today as he absorbed a few Kakizoe thrusts to the neck before pulling the M6 down with ease. Takekaze is an unbelievable 6-3 at this point while Kakizoe ain't too shabby himself at 5-4.

M5 Homasho took complete advantage of M6 Takamisakari's usual weak tachi-ai by slamming into the cop from the onset and driving him staight back and out. Normally, Homasho would opt for a light tachi-ai and then lower himself forcing his opponent to grapple, but today he went straight for the left frontal belt grip and drove Takamisakari back and out straightway. Smart stuff from someone who obviously studies his opponents prior to his matches. Don't look now, but Homasho is 7-2, just one behind the leader. Sakari falls to 5-4.

M7 Kokkai used a right hari-te at the tachi-ai to swat Tamakasuga to the side, but his tsuppari attack from there had no lower body behind it, so the bout quickly turned to a cat and mouse affair as Tamakasuga danced around the ring while Kokkai chased him with weak tsuppari. Kokkai actually cornered Tamakasuga (hard to do in a round ring, I know) and drove the veteran out on the first thrust attempt he delivered with his legs driving from below. This bout wasn't even worth commenting on if Tamakasuga hadn't fallen on his back in the perfect supine position and Kokkai hadn't mounted him perfectly on the edge of the clay structure causing even Clancy to blush there on his barstool. Kokkai is one behind the lead at 7-2 while Tamakasuga falls to 1-8. Hey, at least he scored.

I never thought I'd see the day when I'd enjoy an Aminishiki - Roho matchup, but today's was a decent tactical affair. I don't know what M7 Roho was thinking going in low from the the tachi-ai, but M9 Aminishiki stopped the charge by pushing both hands at his opponent's shoulders. After a lame pull attampt from each opponent, Roho stayed in his low stance, but the problem was, he was looking at the dirt below and not at Aminishiki. The latter just reached both arms underneath Roho's pits for morozashi. Roho defended the move well by locking up Aminishiki's right arm in close and he actually had the gumption to grab a left uwate and attack, but his body was too upright with too little leverage from his legs as he went for the throw, and Amishiki exploited this at the edge countering with a beautiful right inner belt throw for the victory moving his record to 6-3. Roho falls below .500 yet again at 4-5.

Was there ANY doubt how M11 Kakuryu was going to handle M8 Dejima today? Martin, who is definitely on to something as he points out Kakuryu's reliance on evasive sumo, launched his television from the balcony after Kakuryu quickly evaded to his right from the tachi-ai and immediately executed the pre-meditated pull down of Dejima for the easy win. Sure, I'm bagging on Kakuryu a bit here, but Dejima has also got be prepared for his opponent. Was there anyone out there who didn't know what was coming today? I get this feeling that Dejima is too damn stubborn to change up his ways when it's required from that day's opponent. He'll have to live with his 4-5 mark while Kakuryu moves to 6-3.

The problem with a 6-2 start from the lower Maegashira ranks is that you're guaranteed better opponents throughout week 2, especially if you keep winning. That didn't seem to bother rookie Tochiohzan at all, who despite mediocre position at the tachi-ai, never relented in moving forward and forced the aging-in-dog-years M8 Tamanoshima to try and evade and go for a push to the side. M14 Tochiohzan read the move like a dirty manga and just slapped the hapless Tamanoshima to the side and down for another great win for the youngster. We'll see how he handles Aminishiki's trickery tomorrow. What, you think Ami is going to give him a fair fight? Tochiohzan sails along at 7-2 while Tamanoshima falls to 6-3.

Can anyone explain to me the mystery known as M10 Kasuga-stonehenge? After starting out 0-8 and looking as ill as Michael Jackson's face, he jumped out to a great tachi-ai against then 5-3 Shimotori, grabbed the quick left uwate, and forced his opponent back and out straightway. Why wait until after you're 0-8 to light a fire under your arse? Shimotori falls to 5-4.

M10 Tokitsuumi went as low as you can get using a cheap-ass tachi-ai henka to his right of M16 Jumonji. Jumonji is slow slow, he can't even capitalize on a henka when he does it, so you know he can't recover from one administered to him. Both rikishi are a hapless 4-5.

Today's sumo was a perfect example of where M11 Iwakiyama is failing of late. From the tachi-ai against M15 Tochinohana, the two rikishi immediately hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position. Iwakiyama desperately wanted the right uwate, but Tochinohana tilted his body low and to the right keeping his can far from Iwakiyama's grubby paw. Iwakiyama did maintain a left inner grip, and a better rikishi would have quickly abandoned those lame attempts to grab the right uwate and just wrenched upwards on Tochinohana's body with that left hand to set something better up. A better rikishi Iwakiyama ain't these days, and as he just sat there aimlessly throwing that right arm towards Tochinohana's belt, the latter grabbed a right uwate of his own and forced Iwakiyama back and out with ease sending Iwonkey Kong to a scary 3-6 record. Tochinohana improves to 5-4.

M16 Wakanosato crashed into M16 Ushiomaru and just slipped to his side grabbing the left uwate and committing on the pulldown immediately. A better rikishi would have made Wakanosato pay for the tactic, but not the Ushi. Wakanosato added some nice insult to injury by pulling down at the back of Ushiomaru's noggin' with the right hand as he threw him down with the left hard to the clay. Wakanosato improves to 6-3 with the win while Ushiomaru struggles at 3-6.

And finally M16 Tosanoumi came into his bout against M14 Hakurozan today 6-0 against his foe, which defies all logic to me because you have a guy that commits himself fully at the tachi-ai despite his bad balance in Tosanoumi against a lazy rikishi that will seize a pull down opportunity at a moment's notice in Hakurozan. I guess logic wins out today as Hakurozan gets off the snide by suprisingly...stepping to the side after the tachi-ai and slapping Tosanoumi down. Ro moves to 4-5 while Tosanoumi falls to 3-6.

Well, we enter week two so it's time to start focusing on the leaderboard.

Hakuho is all daisies at 8-1
Asashoryu follows in tow at 7-2 joined by Tochiazuma, Kotomitsuki, Homasho, Kokkai, and Tochiohzan

The Maegashira rikishi will all be paired against each other eventually, which will knock them off the board. As NHK brilliantly pointed out on Sunday, Kotomitsuki's winning percentage rapidly declines the further into the basho he goes, so he's out. Tochiazuma looked deflated after today's loss, and I reckon he hasn't seen the last of his losses this basho, so I'll cross him off the list. That leaves us with Genghis and Kublai heading into the last six days. The winner between those two on day 14 determines the yusho.

Simon calls the action tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, well, well, the gang's all here, eh? I'd like to extend my warmest to the loyal readers of Sumotalk (that's if all seven of them are reading this). Believe you me, I'd love to be able to step right in here and expose Martin for the blathering sociopath that he is, deny all of his blarney, rave like a banshee about the injustice of it all, but...

'Struth! Me family was ruined by the dreaded blight, our misfortune a boon to Malachi McManus, whose progeny bred at a rate never before seen in The Emerald Isle, eventually necessitating their relocation overseas, to the cold shores of Canada, where they became successful in many fields, most notably the Doggie Diaper Kings of British Columbia. Who could know that one day their prince, Bernard, would find his bored, trustfunded self in Nippon, alarmingly turned on by all the sweaty, meaty, thonged buttocks on display at his local sumo hall, and that this literal "crush" would bring him eventually to us here at Sumotalk, where in fact Patrick Clancy Kelly IV does indeed reign, contrary to Martin's febrile imagination, as West Yokozuna? Ah, kismet.

So, I watched on the barroom television these last eight days, down in the dumps and interrupted only by drinks being served and women asking me to the love hotel down the street (frequented that place so often that the proprietor gave me a coupon, one of those great deals you can only get in Japan, where if you visit 30 times you get a 7.3% discount on your 31st visit!). The guys tried to support me by taking up a collection of their own prophylactics and sending them over to me by courier. Bernie's and Martin's and Mike's came in handy (literally, slid them down snugly over my fingers to keep them dry as I drank), Simon's I filled with sand, squished down, and sold to na
Ee tourists as "Gigantamochi". George didn't contribute any, him being a newlywed and all. Congratulations, George!

And whilst I sat there moping about my lost legacy, I noticed a few things. To wit, Tochiazuma is a focking sidestepping puss who has no chance to win this tourney (no, he didn't henka Miflobby on Day 5, and I didn't just shag a gaggle of Osaka hotties who are, as Mike told us earlier, definitely NOT showing up for sumo this time out), Aminishiki, lauded as a "tactician", should more accurately be denounced as a coward, pulling, as he has, a henka nearly everyday, and Roho should have gone back to Russia after being humiliated by Takamisakari, whose nick might be in need of a change from Circus to The Great Escapee. 

I also noticed that Kotooshu was twice robbed of wins, as was Iwaki yesterday, and it could be argued Asa, too, vs Miflobby. I'm sick of this "dead in the air" crap, this "he was the aggressor" shite, this "he dominated the entire bout" malarkey. It takes just as much true sumo ring sense, even if you've been soundly ass whooped for 99% of the bout, to masterfully contort yourself at the very end and avoid touching down first, (as Kotooshu did vs Toyonoshima) as it does to do the actual whooping. Yes, I shed no tears for the Bulgar on account of his Day 1 henka of Kisenosato in January (definitely a candidate for Most Vile and Cowardly henka in the modern era), but for me, the simpler the decision process, the more objective, and therefore, the better. First down, in the ring or outside the ring, is the loser. Period. But it'll never happen, because that would take away the MIB ability to determine the winner based on "how they feel", aka Who's Japanese? Ugh.

The Yokozuna took on his favorite mugwump, Kisenosato, who is six months removed from his dominating win over Asa. It was a happy slap fest as both men seemed uninterested in belt grips, and when one face slap in particular brought out the Khan in the Yokozuna, he commenced to pummeling as hard as he used to when he was moving up the ranks. This was gruesome sumo, and Asa knew it and blamed The Kid, even giving his fat ass a small kick once he was down, as if to say, Don't you EVUH...They gave it some freaky kimarite, backward trip or something, but on replay I saw no leg involved.

Was it just me, or did you, too, at the end of the replay of the Tochiazuma/Kotooshu bout, with a freeze frame of Tochi on his keister looking all scraggled and huffy, see in your mind's eye Asashoryu hoisting the Emperor's Cup? Or was that ethereal Mongolian I saw superimposed on the screen Hakuho? Whatever, the replay was a lot more interesting than the bout, which was a snoozer, with both Ozeki staying quite low and butt back, playing scissors, paper, rock for about five minutes (almost called Mike to my room with his Hey Jude cd). Finally Kotooshu got a nice right outside belt and Tochi an inside left, but lo and behold, Kotooshu's men must have forgotten to tighten his belt, because when the tugging and shoving began in prelude to the throw, Tochi looked like he was holding cow straw (also known as, Hey!) Koto then used his superior grip and height, as they both harrumphed to the edge, to leverage the smaller guy out and down. Tochiazuma takes the yusho and I'll broadcast a live feed of me actually consuming a dog turd. What, you think I'd go back on my word twice?! 

Ozeki Hakuho stayed on course for an All Big Balls showdown with Asa by swinging down from the trees with a long left hand front belt grip and picking up Kasugao like King Louie picking up Mowgli. Course, Hakuho wasn't looking for the secret to Man's fire, but for his leading 7th win, and he got it in a flash. Kasugao, god love 'em, is out of his element this high up.

Kaio got his fourth win when Miflobby pulled out. Now the big feller needs four wins in seven days. He might beat Chiyotaikai, and Tochi may return the Jan. gift he received from Kaio, but I highly doubt he will take out Kotooshu or Hakuho or Asa, which means he will have to straight up beat Kisenosato and Ama. Good luck, my man. As for The Sheriff, I focking loved that bird's eye freeze frame of him at the end of his Day 7 bout, on his head with his legs in the air like some old fashioned tv aerial. But with this pullout, and with all the new blood emerging (Tokitenku, Ama, Kise, Geeku, Homasho, Toyonoshima, Baruto, Tochiohzan), he ought to be blocked for quite some time or perhaps for good from reaching sanyaku again. But hey, maybe he can live out the rest of his career in the Maegashira, occasionally pulling off a kinboshi.

The Geeku continued his fall from grace with a stumblingly drunk tachi-ai vs Tokitenku, not a guy to whom you want to give even the slightest opening. Toki used one arm to hold up the charge for a moment (dude is, like all the Mongolians, deceptively strong) and then easily guided the Sekiwake to the side and shoved him down by the back of the neck. At 4-4 he's prolly got Kasugao, Futeno, Ama, Kise, Kyoku, Toyo and Chiyo left on his plate, so it should be an exciting climb to eight wins, but I think he will do it. He should defeat the Korean, Mr. Mikan, and the Yoyos for eight.

Ama led with the head, hammering into Kotomitsuki's chest, then took a wild roundhouse swing that missed, but luckily Hit or Mitsuki did not close his arms and Ama walked into a deep two handed grip, which he used to spin the Sekiwake around and run him out nice okuridashi style. Mr. First Half still has Asa and Hakuho and Kise left, so he's probably looking at the least five losses, but maybe he can whoop on the rest and get ten. That graphic they showed about his recent record for days 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15 was telling. Dude runs out of steam. Gottsta build up that endurance. I suggest smoking.

6-2 Tochiohzan took it to 5-3 Kakuryu, driving the W11 back and out with another example of textbook sumo. Inexorable is how I would describe today's win, and also his assured rise up the ranks to sanyaku within the next year. At E14, the fish has got the goods. Kakuryu has had a bit of a stumble these past four days. I'm very curious to see how he handles Dejima today.

E6 Takamisakari (5-3) again stiffened at the edge, edging his left leg forward toward W9 Tochinonada's (3-5) crotch and pivoting to the left, then immediately (hear that Kotomitsuki?) using his belt grip to lift his foe up and back out. The first ever win for Houdini vs Tochinonada after seven losses. I like this man's sumo this time out.

E5 Homasho, does that guy's visage ever change? He calmly guided tailspinning E8 Dejima around and down after taking his charge at tachi-ai, all the while his face betraying no hints that he was engaged in a top flight sumo contest. He's one cool 6-2 cat, but I hope that tranquility doesn't translate into insufficient fire to go all the way to the top, which is what I believe is happening with Kotooshu.

Finally, not sure who was more disappointed over 4-4 Toyonoshima's loss today to 5-3 Takekaze, him or his fans. I watched the replay several times and I still can't figure out what went wrong. Best I could see is that Takekaze's head hit Toyo twice in the face, and it may have left him a touch nonplussed. The M1 just sort of keeled over.

Back to the bar for me until Day 15, lots of drinks to be drained and women to be charmed (as an aside, I feel for all you guys out there who love sumo, and presumably things Japanese, from afar, but must contend yourselves with non-Japanese tail since you don't live here--I mean, don't misunderstand, some of my best friends are white gals, and I've danced with a bunch of them, but if there are comparisons to be made, give me the slim, soft, wispy haired wench who smells of nothing so much as a warm cinnamon stick any day of the week!) 

Mike Go West Man, married himself to a lovely Nipponjin, I'm certain can tell you more about that on Day 9. Can I get a witness?

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
It's the seventh day of the ongoing sumo tournament and that means yours truly here is on the job. As you probably noticed, some of the more esteemed members of our elitist clique are either AWOL or KIA, but there are some pertinent explanations for these unfortunate events. Kenji was felled by the Black Death two months ago, or so Simon Says, and Clancy got his just deserved for sticking his long nose in my private family matters. On the bright side, Simon did manage to dodge the Feds yet again, and Yokozuna Wesemann filled in for the absentees.

But let's get back to Mr. Kelly's adventures. Most of you remember his expos
Eon my not so humble origins last basho, so I thought I'd return the favor and did a little snooping of my own. The earliest known member of the clan was a prosperous self-made landowner by the name of Patrick Clancy Kelly, who, in the early 1840's, had an estimated 2,500 acres of land and was one of the main sources of potatoes in Ireland. What most people didn't know, however, is that Patrick was also an amateur self-appointed alchemist, one of the few left at the time, and he used some of his produce to make an invigorating alcoholic beverage, strangely similar to the French absinthe, but without the ill effects on the nervous system. His rivals, the MacManus clan, had their own recipe, but that one used grain as its main ingredient. One day, by cutting himself and dripping some blood in the still, Patrick accidentally uncovered an ancient formula that, when ingested, made the subject loyal to him, albeit for a limited time. From that day on, he worked endless hours to perfect it, trying to make the effects permanent. Believe it or not, he actually succeeded, but one final thing prevented his implementation of world domination, and that was the An Drochshaol, or, for those of you who don't speak Irish, The Great Potato Famine.

With no crop the debts were overwhelming, and the creditors soon raided the Kelly estates, destroying all of Patrick's research in the process. The Kelly clan took off for the New World, leaving the MacManus clan in undisputed domination of the alcohol market (that might explain why any Kelly instinctively hates anyone bearing the name MacManus). Patrick tried for many years to recreate the formula, but he never succeeded again. Late accounts of his life mention him aimlessly wandering the streets at night, uttering "Potato..." from time to time, but most of these have been dismissed as unfounded.

Of course, upon arrival to our fleabag hostel in Osaka, I had to share my findings with Clancy. Visibly disturbed by the thought of missing the chance to rule the world, he disappeared into the bar across the street and was never heard from since. And what a world it might have been... John Kelly president instead of G. Dubya Bush, everyone dancing in the rain, The Kelly Family as the undisputed leaders of the music business... and, last but not least, Clancy Kelly as the Yokozuna of Sumotalk...

Thank you. Let's get down to business, and let me start with my valuable opinion on the whole Asashoryu Yaocho deal. The yaocho ain't there, but there is a deal. Just look at the facts: a tabloid writes some wild yaocho allegations involving the most fearsome Dai-Yokozuna of the recent years, who 'just' happens to be foreign, and right at the time of his 20th Yusho. Of course, they haven't the slightest shadow of a shred of evidence, and that makes any sentient entity with a pulse wonder: WHY? Would selling an extra 20ish% more magazines make up for the huge lawsuit damages? I don't think so, and I don't think they thought so either. They may be tabloid writers, but they're not stupid.

So there must be an angle. Let's see, who would have to gain from the whole deal? Asashoryu? No way. The tabloids? No, wrong again. Britney Spears? Maybe, but I don't see how. Wait... the NSK? Big lawsuit, big compensations... Asashoryu stained. But why would anyone put themselves up for bait so easily? Unless--and walk along the thin line with me here for a second--unless the NSK staged the whole thing. How? How about this: Asashoryu looks set on becoming the man with 33+ Yusho, so they try to come up with ways of discrediting him. What to do... why not go to the tabloids, those things will print anything. But wouldn't they be afraid of a lawsuit? They probably would, but guess what, the NSK would be the ones filing. Thus, a mutual agreement might be reached: tabloid prints, NSK sue but don't win, or win and don't collect. Everyone's happy, except for Asashoryu, and that was the point all along.

Conspiracy or not, it did affect Asashoryu (who might just be only half-demon after all). There are, of course, other possible explanations: the tabloid people are a bunch of sorry-ass incompetents or... those accusations were true. You decide, while I get to today's action.

M3 Kasugao plagiarized Baruto with his friendly tachi-ai that allowed The Yokozuna to give him a nice morozashi hug. Game over, Asashoryu pushed him towards the edge for about one second, then quickly turned and threw Kasugao to the floor, by converting his morozashi into sukuinage. That makes it 5 in a row for Asashoryu and the Yusho stays within range. Kasugao should be happy with his 3-4 so far, but winning 8 is just a bit more than I can imagine.

Ozeki Hakuho met M1 Toyonoshima, who came in 4-2 before the bout. The tachiai saw Hakuho reach for the front of his opponent's mawashi with his left hand. That's hardly a surprise nowadays, but the M1 wisely kept away (or so he thought). Hakuho quickly went to Plan B. Tsuppari--well aimed and plenty--and if you watch carefully, you can even see the schooner (cryptic reference to Kevin Smith movie--fans only). The pattern is this, for those of you not bothering: break foe's balance, try the pull, after the pull try to get mawashi; relentlessly repeat until foe gives up or you get the grip. Toyonoshima tried to evade at the edge, but Hakuho didn't fall for it, and kept mauling away until he got a decent right inside grip, quickly followed by a shallow left, and finally he got the yorikiri. So far, this new plan of his seems to be working just fine, but he still has a lot of experimenting to do until he gets it right. I'm just guessing here, but his stablemates must already be frightened at the mere thought of keiko. Anyway, Hakuho looks like a legitimate yusho threat, but the fat lady has yet to sing.

Moving on. Oh, thou, cruel fate, Kotooshu met newly-promoted Komusubi Tokitenku, and he had to do it on my watch again. Frustration clouded his judgment today, because he went for Tokitenku's neck right away with vicious thrusts. Of course, like the big clumsy oaf he is, he bungled it in style and gifted his new nemesis with some easy 8-foot deep morozashi. Tokitenku took full advantage and splattered Kotooshu all over the dohyo with a beautiful nimaigeri. It's completely beyond me why the MIB called it shitatenage, but Tokitenku earns my respect with the move, while Kotooshu earns a mouthful of dust. Way to go, my man, falling to 4-3 like that. With 3 wins over Ozeki and Yokozuna, the Shukunsho is not yet out of the question for my fellow countryman, but Kotooshu's record is sayin' he's not getting a Yusho. Yet.

Even in his twilight years, Ozeki Kaio is stronger than the vast majority of the division. Asasekiryu, although some 10 years younger, is clearly a part of that majority, as today's bout proved it. Kaio took a cautious approach at the tachi-ai and secured a solid left inside. Asasekiryu succeeded in keeping Kaio's deadly right at bay, and even shook off the left, but sacrificed his low stance in the process, and the old guy walked him out eventually. Despite the win, things are looking grim for the veteran, because, with 4 losses already I don't see him getting 8 wins with all the Ozeki and Yokozuna left to fight (and the Yusho so closely contested--that is with Asashoryu's two losses so far). Maybe Kotooshu might drop one, IF he doesn't need it for his own hard-earned kachikoshi.

Flawless record-wise Ozeki Tochiazuma couldn't take the heat of M1 Kisenosato's strong tachi-ai so after the initial impact he evaded ever-so-slightly to the left and let the young guy defeat himself. Way to go, 7-0 is remarkable for a supposedly injured kadoban Ozeki, but Tochiazuma's run might just end tomorrow. Kisenosato is steadily on his way back to sanyaku.

The skirmish between forever Sekiwake Kotomitsuki and forever Ozeki Chiyotaikai can hardly be called a sumo bout
Eit looked more like a schoolyard fight between two 9-year olds. Kotomitsuki sloppily charged with arms wide-open and it's safe to say that any other rikishi would have had morozashi in about a second or so, but it's Chiyotaikai we're talking about here and his tsuppari were completely useless against the big Sekiwake. The Ozeki was driven back and slipped, falling to his third defeat. Kotomitsuki continues his ascent towards the staple 8, but the big guns are yet to face.

Komusubi Ama boasted a fiery tachiai against his larger Sekiwake opponent and riddled him with thrusts like there was no tomorrow. While hardly budging him, the tsuppari were effective enough to destroy what little focus Kotoshogiku had left, allowing Ama to slip both arms deep inside. From there on, yorikiri was just a formality. 1-6 Kotoshogiku is almost guaranteed to rest in the calms of mid-Maegashira next basho. Genki Ama is out of the meatgrinder with 3 wins and will get kachikoshi eventually. Size does matter, but it ain't the only thing, right?

Miyabiyama is currently on a break from sanyaku, but he should be back there in May. His day 2 rape of Asashoryu is proof that he is not only physically, but mentally prepared as well. Today he successfully kept M2 Kyokutenho from his belt, despite the Mongolian's best efforts, and he eventually weaseled his way to morozashi--a little personal note here: there's been a lot of morozashiin' going on today, I counted at least 5. From there, the Fatman steadily pushed his foe toward the edge and managed to survive a late pull-down attempt, well, until he won the bout anyway. Because he did crash out of the dohyo awkwardly immediately afterwards. Out of 7 bouts, Kyokutenho only won one, with a grease-job henka against Kotooshu. What goes around comes around, they say.

All the research on Clancy has drained me, so today I won't be so generous and I'll skip a few non-essential bouts. FFWD to the one between Ugly and Pretty-Boy. The Russian used a slight sidestep to grab the quick solid left uwate. After a brief skirmish in the center of the dohyo, Roho took charge of the bout by suddenly standing up and pressing Tokitsuumi's head forward. The resulting momentum allowed the Russian to completely flip his opponent over with the best finishing move of the day. That's what I like to see from any rikishi, but Roho is especially good at it and why he's not doing it more often is beyond my comprehension. No matter, his record is his business and if he doesn't care about it, neither should I. Tokitsuumi falls to 5 losses.

One rather predictable bout was the one between Dejima, former glory, and Yoshikaze, small. What might happen, you say? Two things: Dejima blasts the little guy out in milliseconds, or--more likely--the little guy jumps off the tracks and lets the train pass by. Guess what, Yoshikaze got out of the way in time and Dejima fell off the dohyo all on his own. BIG surprise. Dejima should be kicking ass this low, but age has caught up with him. 4-3. Yoshikaze is small.

The last bout I'm going to analyze is the one between Kakuryu, my personal favorite, and the more experienced Shimotori. Kakuryu's 5-2 record will be regarded by some as impressive, but for me it's not. Four wins of those five were by highly evasive tactics. I've admitted it from the very beginning, he's good at it, but the last thing I want to see on the already crippled banzuke is another Kyokushuzan. Anyway, he got his sorry ass kicked again today. I don't care if he's small, there are ways to circumvent this. Look at Ama, he's small too, but he's strong as an ox and a true fighter. Yoshikaze is small, but most of his wins have a solid foundation of daring, lightning-quick attack. Also, there are other methods available, like the gym. Tomorrow, the little weasel is up against new Japanese sensation Tochiohzan. I will be delighted, I'm sure.

Plenty to look forward to in terms of yusho, but Asashoryu is likely to make history again by being the first rikishi to win the cup after dropping his first two bouts. Tomorrow, I'll keep an eye out for some likely henkas. The prime candidates are, of course, Hakurozan (he just does it for the hell of it), Aminishiki (he's up against Tosanoumi) and Tochiazuma (the trademark 'inashi' against Kotooshu - yes, that's a henka too).

There have been rumors about the ghost of Kenji visiting from beyond the grave on day 14 to grace us with a long-awaited report. In the meantime, Patrick Clancy Kelly IV tackles a monster hangover.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The further along this basho goes, the more Asashoryu is finding his groove. A listless Futenoh gave the Yokozuna his first win on day 3, and then after a close call against Toyonoshima on day 4, the viciousness in Asashoryu's attack beginning at the tachi-ai has re-manifest itself. Though it seems the basho has slowed down now, the drama towards the end should be incredible as the Yokozuna tries to chase down Tochiazuma, who fooled everyone by hinting at retirement prior to the basho. One element I believe we didn't see until today from Asashoryu was his ability to change on a dime and adjust to the pace of the bout before his opponent knows what hit him.

Granted, M2 Kyokutenho is about as nice of a practice dummy as you can get when you're sorta in a slump, but Asa will take everything he can get at this point. After another lightening tachi-ai, Asashoryu found himself with the quick right outer grip. Kyokutenho dug in well using his left arm on the inside to try and knock Asashoryu upwards a bit making the Yokozuna's belt that much closer, but Asashoryu stayed low keeping his fanny out of the way. The Yokozuna pressed the action straightway, but Kyokutenho's height and strong position with the left arm were proving the march backwards difficult. Asashoryu seemed to regroup for just a moment before mounting another charge only this time instead of going for the force out, he used his left leg to trip the back of Tenho's right felling his countryman to the dohyo before he knew what hit him. This was vintage Asashoryu who is now hitting his stride at 4-2. Kyokutenho falls to 1-5.

M3 Miyabiyama absorbed the attacking Chiyotaikai at the tachi-ai by catching his throat with both hands. Although Miyabiyama didn't charge forward, he held Chiyotaikai there by the neck causing the Ozeki's wheels to just spin in the dirt. With Chiyotaikai's footing as stable as Britney Spears' mindset, Miyabiyama timed a perfect pull down of his flailing opponent to even his record at 3-3. With a lot of the strongest dudes already out of the way, Miyabiyama should rule the roost from here as he shoots for a kachi-koshi and accompanying Shukunsho. Chiyotaikai falls to 4-2 with the worst yet to come.

Ozeki Hakuho went Chiyotaikai today using his new tsuppari attack against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku, and while the thrusts weren't blistering, they were annoying enough to keep the Geeku at bay and completely away from the Ozeki's belt. One of Hakuho's strengths is that he sees his opponents so well, and such was the case today as he timed a perfect pulldown of the frustrated Kotoshogiku. Chikara-zumo it wasn't, but it was a good win for Hakuho who makes it five in a row at 5-1. Kotoshogiku continues to squirm at 1-5.

Ozeki Kotooshu completely smothered M2 Asasekiryu today using a right arm on the inside to stand Seki upright setting up the left uwate grip on the other side. From there, it was an easy belt throw of not-so-Sexy to the clay for the Ozeki who calmly moves to 4-2. Still, you recall Kotooshu's pre-basho talk of focusing on the yusho, and you can't help but note how he hasn't taken advantage of Asashoryu's two early losses. I don't know that much has changed yet. So much for Asasekiryu (1-5) running interference for stablemate Asashoryu.

I thought it was smart of Kotomitsuki today against Kaio not to just hook up at the belt at the tachi-ai. Rather, the Sekiwake struck and then moved all over the place like a fish out of water forcing the slow Ozeki to chase him around. At the end of the cat and mouse fracas, Kotomitsuki enjoyed a solid left uwate grip leaving Kaio nary a pot to piss in. After waiting the mandatory 15 seconds in the center of the ring with the perfect position, Kotomitsuki swung Kaio to the edge with the belt grip and pushed him out from there. After practicing with the Ozeki every day prior to the basho, there way no way Mitsuki was going to get burned by Kaio's strength (left arm inside) this basho. Smart sumo as Kotomitsuki posts his usual 5-1 mark six days in. Kaio needs a drink at 2-4.

Komusubi Tokitenku's tachi-ai was a half step late today against Tochiazuma, who used a nice head butt at the tachi-ai himself to completely neutralize Komusubi Tokitenku's charge. Then, in perfect Tochiazuma fashion, he sort of curled up in a ball daring Tokitenku to go for a pull down. It didn't come straightway, so the Ozeki unleashed a quick otsuke with the left arm throwing Tokitenku to the side just enough to grab the solid left outer grip. Tokitenku could do nothing from this go down hard to the clay via a well-timed Tochiazuma belt throw. This was so easy, and there was such little action that if Tochiazuma were a foreign rikishi, some hack freelance writer would have had the perfect fodder to begin a yaocho article with. Tochiazumasterofdeceit is spotless at 6-0 while Tokitenku's hopes of a Shukunsho fade a bit at 2-4. Here's a little side note to any rikishi who happen to read this and will yet face Tochiazuma: turn the tables on the Ozeki and move slightly to YOUR left at the tachi-ai nudging him from the side.

Komusubi Ama enjoyed a deep left arm on the inside against M3 Kasugao at the tachi-ai, and while Ama's right hand clutched the front of Kausgao's belt, the Korean moved his ass to the side taking away the perfect moro-zashi position. Normally, Ama could use this inside position to just charge his opponent back and out, but with Kasugao, you had the threat of his kote-nage throw with the right arm. Ama showed great patience in the end waiting for an opening that allowed him to force Kasugao back and out. Superior technique wins over brute strength here with Ama moving to 2-4. Kasugao falls to 3-3.

In the Maegashira ranks, M4 Futenoh exhibited yet another bad tachi-ai failing to charge forward...but least he did come in standing upright. It looked as if M1 Toyonoshima was a bit surprised at the change-up because he didn't come out of it with a decent belt grip. Futenoh's defensive tactics today consisted of holding hands with Toyonoshima, and as jealous as I was of the situation, it made for an ugly, drawn out bout. Finally, Toyonoshima was able to get both arms on the inside close to morozashi, but Futenoh countered by clamping his arms over and around Toyonoshima's limbs keeping him at bay. At this point the "action" in the ring came to a complete halt, so I popped in the Beatles Hey Jude and sang along with the ending for roughly four minutes during which time Futenoh did try a couple of weak kime-dashi attempts, but since the good times don't last forever, Toyonoshima finallly got low enough to where he could use his moro-zashi position to force Futenoh out. The only reason I even mention the bout is because of Toyonoshima's fantastic 4-2 start. Futenoh is 1-5.

For an M1 it sure seems as if Kisenosato is getting a lot of crap opponents early on. Today was M5 Tamakasuga who had no shot of pushing around the Kid today, and he knew it going straight for a meager pulldown. Kisenosato wiped that nonsense away and easily forced Tamakasuga back to the rope and across with a sufficient push attack. This was way too easy for Kisenosato who moves to 4-2. Something tells me the scheduling committe would like to see him back in the sanyaku as quickly as possible. Kin-Tamakasuga is 1-5.

I took the letters R-O-H-O and rearranged them forming as many words as I could, and here's what I came up with:


I know, that last word looks impossible, but trust me on this one. How do you let M4 Takekaze do you like that? After a half-assed tachi-ai from M7 Roho, Takekaze easily slipped to his left using a perfect otsuke push to the Russian's side throwing him off balance and dangerously towards the straw. I really thought Roho could have dug in at this point and counter attack, but he was standing too upright providing the perfect oshi-dashi target for the charging Takekaze. Props to the smaller Takekaze for a great win, but I just didn't see the effort from Roho (2-4) today....again. Takekaze moves to 3-3.

M5 Homasho used his finesse sumo today rendering M6 Kakizoe's tsuppari attack ineffective by watching his opponent well and evading any effective thrusts. Kakizoe was frustrated early and finally went for a pull down, but Homasho was waiting for the move and easily pushed Zoe (3-3) across the ring and out picking up his fourth win in the process. 

M8 Tamanoshima used an interesting tactic of straight-arming the attacking M6 Takamisakari at the tachi-ai but not really trying to push him. The Robocop wisely just wrapped up both of Tamanoshima's arms and wrenched the former Sekiwake over to the ropes and across. Both rikishi are 4-2.

M7 Kokkai finally treated us to the wing-span tsuppari attack against M10 Tokitsuumi shoving him two steps back from the tachi-ai by the throat and throwing him so far off balance that it took only one more fell swoop to knock Tokitsuumi (2-4) clear off the dohyo. This was as pretty as awkward can get as Kokkai improves to 4-2.

Although M8 Dejima's straight forward charge hit a major bump in the tracks named M11 Iwakiyama, Dejima handcuffed his opponent's arm frustrating him to the point that Iwakiyama's only choice was a defensive pull down. Dejima (4-2) was on top of the move and easily pushed out the compromised Iwakiyama (2-4) when it came.

M9 Tochinonada wasted his left inner position gained from the tachi-ai forcing M12 Ushiomaru back to the straw only to switch gears and go for that ill-advised pull down. The Ushi slipped out of the move and countered by pushing at Tochinonada's left side. Problem was Tochinonada defended the counter attack by applying a sweet headlock around Ushiomaru's dome, so you had the Ushi pushing with all of his might and Tochinonada keeping himself upright by holding onto Ushiomaru's head. At this point something had to give, and that something was Ushiomaru's head popping out of Tochinonada's grip like a newborn baby exiting the womb. With his nogging free and Tochinonada nothing left to hold onto, Ushiomaru shoved his opponent to the dirt. Both rikishi are 3-3.

M9 Aminishiki ain't makin' any friends here at the hotel with his sumo this basho. The dude is 2-3 coming in...he has an 0-5 Kasuganishiki as his he opts for a tachi-ai henka to his left. Unlike Jumonji, who is so slow he can't even work a henka to his favor, Aminishiki grabbed the back of Kasuganishiki's belt easily dumping him down to the clay. This was disturbing stuff from Aminishiki who moves to 3-3.

M11 Kakuryu is doing his best to keep Martin aroused. Today he absorbed the M14 Tosanoumi's tachi-ai well and wisely went to the inashi with the right hand to push Tosanoumi from the side and off balance a bit. As Tosanoumi stumbled forward a bit near the straw, Kakuryu moved to the center of the ring and as the veteran turned around to face his opponent, Kakuryu was right there to greet him with some sharp tsuppari that backed Tosanoumi out with ease. Kakuryu has looked great this basho using his quickness to set up timely attacks that he lower Maegashira rikishi frankly can't handle. He's 5-1 if you need him. Tosanoumi falls to 3-3.

M14 Tochiohzan's lower body is so damn stable. The rookie looked a bit hesitant at the tachi-ai against M12 Yoshikaze, but once the bout got going, Yoshikaze's usual tsuppari attack just bounced off the chest of Tochiohzan, and the newcomer wasted no time executing a flawless tsuppari charge (teppo) fueled by the purtiest suri-ashi you've ever seen. Talk about a kid who implements the basic sumo exercises to his advantage as he moves to 4-2. Yoshikaze has had a hard luck basho at 1-5. Remember that day 1 bout against Ushiomaru where Yoshikaze thought there should have been a false start but it wasn't called? That's completely taken away his momentum.

Juryo rikishi, Satoyama, paid a visit to the Makuuchi division today to face M13 Hakurozan. Talk about a thing of beauty. After a smashing charge from the Russian, Satoyama patiently waited for an opening as he retreated, and he got it at the edge immediately ducking under the charging Rozy and grabbing his right leg. The ashi-tori move nearly worked, but Hakurozan survived only to have Satoyama in the moro-zashi position, which he did not waste by going for a scoop through that set up a force-out from there. Hakurozan dictated the pace of this bout for all of one second. From there, he was schooled by his smaller, Juryo foe. That was impressive stuff from Satoyama (6-0), who will incredibly become the head rikishi in the stable next basho replacing none other than Baruto. Hakurozan is gripping at 2-4.

M15 Shimotori and M15 Tochinohana immediately hooked up in the gappuri hidari yotsu position meaning both rikishi secured right outer grips. Shimotori did not get any push of his opponent from the charge, however, and Tochinohana is just too big to budge from a stand-still, so Tochinohana wisely took the initiative swinging Shimotori over and out for the good win. Shimotori cools down a bit at 4-2 while Tochinohana moves to just 2-4.

And finally, M16 Wakanosato used what looked like a pre-meditated strike and pull attack against M16 Jumonji. The tachi-ai wasn't cheap as Wakanosato hit straight on, but before trying to gain any sort of belt position, he stepped to his right and pulled at the back of Jumonji's head and shoulder. The hapless Jumonji was dragged to the dirt and his third loss against as many wins, but it's quite telling for Wakanosato, who improves to 4-2, that his day in the sun is over. It wasn't cheap sumo at all, but anyone who resorts early on to a tactic such as this to beat Jumonji ain't gonna impact the division higher up.

Two fifths of the way in, and the big question is, is Tochiazuma for real this basho? Other than that lame-ass henka against Miyabiyama, the Ozeki's wins have been impressive. Coming into the day, Tochiazuma had achieved his fifth career 5-0 start. He's taken the yusho three out of those first four attempts, so will this basho make it four for five? I see him going 3-1 against his fellow Ozeki and losing to Asashoryu, so if he can continue to drub the sanyaku on down, he's the favorite. His bout with Kisenosato tomorrow is huge.

Martin will tell you all about it.

Day 5 Comments (Bernie McManus reporting)
I myself am not too concerned about Asashoryu winning the yusho as his initial stumble is quickly proving to be nothing more than a very poorly timed hiccup. Two losses, hell, two losses should be this guy's handicap anyway just so that there'll be an off-chance for a playoff come senshuraku. Last time out ( and I know how easily these tourneys are forgotten these days ) he had at least four more wins than everyone except the M9W. Won't last forever, but it'll be a while unless we see something nutso happen, like a Tochiazuma streak or Hakuho return to Yoko form.

I seem to be the Ama-Asashoryu man here at ST because the two fiery Mongols showed up, same Bat-Channel, right on Bernie-owned Day 5. Going into this I was mostly wanting to gauge the tabloid superstar and see how long it took for him to get the upper hand. Asa smacked his little buddy with a friendly harite tachi-ai as Ama scored an instant over the shoulder uwate. Wasn't nearly enough to gain an advantage, however, as Asa settled on the inside and started muscling his way back in the fight. Asa then secured a right belt grip by pulling one of his feint-grip-switch moves, kinda like a mini maki-kae, hauled Ama up to break the uwate and usher him out. Ama ain't got nothing but his first day gift from Chiyotaikai while Asashoryu pulls past .500 at 3-2.

Man of mystery Tochiazuma continued his roll into sole possession of the lead against Miyabiyama who pretty much fell asleep as he crossed the starting line. I'm not sure if this was bad luck on Miyabi's part or if Tochi just picked the right side to shift. He didn't henka but he seemed ready to step to the side pretty quickly. Anyway, not much to mention here except that Taz is 5-0 from the lowest Ozeki slot while Miyabiyama is suffering from "Beat the Yokozuna and then race for a make-koshi" trend at 2-3 although he is in the meat-grinder so he'll have some lighter fare week two.

Chiyotaikai went all textbook on the Geeku finishing with a tawara-hatakikomi that nearly lifted him off the ground. Kotoshogiku did manage to lock his arms up from the tachi-ai but just couldn't match the aggression of the Ozeki and lost ground the whole time. Bread and butter from 4-1 Taikai as Shogiku is welcomed into the Sanyaku with a 1-4 so far.

Hakuho was back to playing cat-and-mouse tonight in another tense slapfest against Asasekiryu. On one hand he looks so in control as he frustrates his opponents attacks, constant threats of arm-locks, very martial arts, but on the other hand as Simon says he's playing with fire. Boy am I looking forward to the Asa-Oshu-Hack matches this basho. Anyway, Hakuho kept a distance between himself and his fellow Mongolian until reaching out with one of his bear paws and scoring a bit left uwate out of nowhere. From here it was straight up yorikiri for a comfortable fourth win. Asasekiryu sits at 1-4.

No tricks from the Kotooshu vs. Futeno tachi-ai but unfortunately the Prince of Orange's defenses just couldn't fight off that dreaded Bulgarian reach-around. Futeno wasn't dead yet, though, and as he was pulled up and backed out he tried twisting to the left for the utchari. Koto reigned him in however and forced him down over the bales for his third win. Futeno continues to be a bit player at 1-4.

Kaio and the hot Toyonoshima clashed arms at the tachi-ai but it was Kaio who took control and overpowered Shima by lifting and forcing him back before tossing him to the clay with an oshitaoshi. Kaio really needs a few more low-stress wins like this if he wants to make his KK. He's at 2-3 while Toyonoshima suffers his second loss to fall to 3-2.

Kotomitsuki showed a lot of energy from the tachi-ai and pretty much had his way with the sluggish Komusubi Tokitenku. Working his way into morozashi he was easily able to force the Mongolian back before executing a big sukuinage that sent them both to the clay. It's the usual hot start from 4-1 Kotomitsuki, let's see if he makes nine wins a trend. Tokitenku is having a decent go at 2-3 but after trouncing the Yokozuna he doesn't have much to prove in his sanyaku debut.

Kisenosato must have been pretty confident against Takekaze because he stood up pretty quickly at the tachi-ai and invited him straight into his chest where he proceeded to manhandle him for the rest of the bout. Takekaze seemed outclassed as Kissy forced him back, worked his way into
side control' ( too much MMA.. ) and rode him out by yorikiri. I like what I'm seeing from the 3-2 kid. If only he could beat that damn Chiyotaikai. Takekaze ain't calling it in neither at 2-3.

We got a great match out of Kyokutenho and Kasugao as the hard tachi-ai set up a right-inside left-outside faceoff which sent them straining back and forth for a good 15 seconds. Kasugao eventually got the advantage as he worked himself lower and broke Tenho's right-inside grip. Cinching up his left elbow he was able to keep Tenho high and run him out of the ring by yorikiri. Speaking of common finishers, there have been some wonderful kimarite on the other nights this basho but the only spicy dish on my menu was a messy kubihineri courtesy of Shimotori. Kasugao is all out of bubblegum at 3-2 while Kyokutenho is a swallowing 1-4.

Kokkai's been spry this basho but his style seemed badly matched against the deep-hulled Homasho's sturdy stance. Homasho wasn't his usual ultra-low self but with a left hand under Kokkai's armpit he was able to nullify any decent tsuppari and keep the Georgian stood up until he was over the bales. I'm surprised that Homasho is listed as lighter and shorter than Kokkai on the Kyokai site as he looked way bigger than his opponent tonight. Kokkai is riding his first three wins at 3-2 while Homasho keeps getting better and better with a 3-2 of his own.

Roho had little intention of a straight-up fight against Tamakasuga as he went in with a soft tachi-ai and kept his feet back to set up a pull-down. Tamakasuga obliged and sticks to his one win at 1-4 while Roho seems interested in dropping down to join his brother at 2-3.

Takamisakari's extra weight was useful in blunting Dejima's usual banzai charge but it was his Houdini-like instincts that saved the day once again. Twisting away as he gave up ground he skirted to the side and keep a foot planted just enough for the ex-Ozeki to tumble down and roll over the bales. Both men are 3-2.

Wakanosato rolled Tosanoumi down to go 3-2 in his return to the Makuuchi and I was surprised to see Jumonji overpower Iwakiyama in a long contentious bout throughout which Waki often held the upper-hand. Tokitsuumi and Tochiohzan put on a good show of sumo with Tsuumi picking up his third while Hakurozan bagged Kasuganishiki pretty hard, and not figuratively either, for his first win of the basho.

And in the lead-deciding match between 4-0 Kakuryu and 3-1 Tamanoshima it was the Fridge who slammed the door on the young Kak, thrusting at the chest and pushing him out without much fanfare. Good things to come from my little Kak, believe you me.

I'm a bit conflicted about the goofball screaming out right before the tachi-ai in some of tonight's bouts. On one hand you can feel that there's some excitement this basho and it's nice that the fans are a bit more into it, but on the other hand it was like basketball fans waving noodles to throw off a free-throw and was just too disrespectful for a sport like sumo. 

Anyway things have quieted down by Day 5 and the specter of another ho-hum Yokozuna steamrollering is slowly returning. Let's hope I eat my words by Day 11 and with that, I'll see you in a week.

Mike's back with the big words tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Haru is definitely living up to its reputation of being a red-hot bitch-queen with a penchant for younger men. For the first time for what seems like eons, I have no idea whatsoever who will be victorious on March 25th. And that, my fellow simians, is no bad thing.

Yokozuna Asashoryu reminded us all yet again just how powerful he really is in a fascinating contest with M1 Toyonoshima, who showed impressive speed and awareness to take advantage of the Yokozuna's indecisiveness following an odd tachiai (where he led with his left shoulder), getting both arms inside Asashoryu and going for the kill. However, the Yokozuna did what almost no one else can do and used his exceptional strength to squeeze Toyonoshima's arms in so tightly that they were ineffective, then forced him out for the yoritaoshi. Asashoryu got out of jail here, but looked good doing it, eventually, anyway. All credit to Toyonoshima, who played his part in an exciting bout. That great run he had in Hatsu seems to have done wonders for his confidence. The future is definitely brighter for Japanese fans, with Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku and Tochiohzan all waiting in the wings along with him. Asashoryu is back in the race at 2-2. Toyonoshima is a sweet peppermint teabag at 3-1.

Ozeki Tochiazuma faced his first really tough test today, on paper anyway, as he met up with co-leader Sekiwake Kotomitsuki. Both men traded pushes and thrusts after Tochiazuma's superior tachiai put him on the offensive but ultimately it was evasion by Tochiazuma (4-0) – he dodged a thrust by Kotomitsuki (3-1), throwing the Sekiwake off balance – that led to the win by oshidashi. Good, solid sumo from the kadoban Ozeki, who will surely fancy the yusho if he can make it to nakabi without losing. Kotomitsuki is 3-1. As Mike mentioned, I don't see any injuries bothering Tochiazuma.

Ozeki Hakuho (3-1) continued his dim-witted foray into the uncertain world of tsuppari as he made hard work of defeating Komusubi Ama (1-3) in a bout that really could have gone either way. If he carries on arsing around with a technique he is just not suited for, he is going to drop bouts along the way. There were times in this bout when Ama's belt was wide open, but he didn't even attempt to go for that lethal left uwate. Madness, in my definitely-not-humble opinion. The Ozeki finally won the cagey game of cat-and-mouse, pushing the parakeet-like Ama out at the (n+1)th attempt. Sorry, Hakuho fans, but he ain't going to win any yusho playing with fire like this.

Ozeki Kotooshu (2-2) got his comeuppance, eating something of a tachiai henka from M2 Kyokutenho (1-3), who simply grabbed the uwate and swung the Ozeki around to force him to the edge and out. Kotooshu put up some token resistance but this one was over at the tachiai. A forgettable bout, certainly, but it was significant in that Kotooshu blew a great chance to keep one win ahead of Asashoryu. Will he ever win a yusho?

Ozeki Chiyotaikai pulled a chicken-shit henka on M1 Kisenosato but the youngster wasn't having any of it as he kept his balance and attacked. Sadly for the neutral fan, Chiyotaikai fought back with a renewed tsuppari attack to force the Kisser out. Get lost Chiyotaikai with your 3-1 record. Ozeki sumo my arse. Kisenosato is 2-2 and he looked like he was going to start crying as he stomped down the hanamichi.

Ozeki Kaio screwed up big-time against out-of-sorts Sekiwake Kotoshogiku, winning the tachiai and looking likely to dominate with classic Ozeki sumo. However, Kaio didn't have his favoured right-hand grip, instead going with the left, and realized he wasn't going to budge the stubborn Sekiwake. Cue an ill-advised kotenage attempt, which served only to give the initiative to Kotoshogiku. Lights out. Yorikiri. Kaio looks screwed at 1-3. Kotoshogiku should improve on his 1-3 very shortly.

M2 Asasekiryu surprised Komusubi Tokitenku (2-2), not to mention me, by turning up in a badger, going with tsuppari from the tachiai, waiting patiently for his chance to grab the belt. And so the chance came as Tokitenku desperately fended his opponent away. After a bit of a strain at the edge, Asa-sexy-mew hung on to land on top of his compatriot to pick up his first win. The tic-tacs paid off today.

M3 Miyabiyama has looked pretty damned awesome this basho and he kicked the arse of M3 Kasugao good and proper today, employing once again that lumbering tsuppari that served him so well against the Yokozuna. Fighting Kasugao (2-2), a dangerous belt specialist, the important thing was, Sherlocks, to keep him away from the belt. In that respect, as GW Bush proudly proclaimed that time on that aircraft carrier, it was mission accomplished. However, unlike with Dubya, this wasn't utter bullshit. Miyabiyama will be pleased with his 2-2 record with Asashoryu and Hakuho out of the way.

M5 Homasho has a lot of fans among the Sumotalk contributors, not to mention the readers of this site. And while I'm impressed with his attitude (who isn't?), I'm still not convinced he has the size and strength to survive at the very top. He has plenty of technical smarts and a nice, supple body which will serve him well in tight scrapes in the future, but let's just see, shall we? Against M4 Takekaze today we saw a noncommittal tachiai as both men bumped heads. There followed a short scare as Takekaze almost got into the side of Homasho but the young lad kept his head and showed decent footwork, balance and awareness to grab his opponent's arm and send him merrily on his way. Both men teeter at 2-2.

Along with Roho, surely the most frustrating rikishi in the cosmos is M4 Futenoh. What a total waste of a great sumo body and solid technique. I just can't work out why he isn't a sanyaku regular. The only thing I can conclude is this: he's a great big softie (like me). However, even Futenoh couldn't contrive to lose to M5 Tamakasuga, the definition of easy meat at this rank. Futenoh slaughtered his opponent at the tachiai and wrapped him up for the quick and easy yorikiri win. All very well, but let's see him dominate like this against the sanyaku. He had no business losing to the likes of Takekaze on shonichi. Both men have one win apiece.

M7 Kokkai is having one of his 'on' bashos; in other words, he doesn't fall over when an opponent caresses one of his buttocks with a mischievous glint in his eye. He had a toughie today in the bulky form of M8 Tamanoshima, who went out of the blocks pretty bloody early – I was expecting the gyoji to call a matta – and wrapped the Georgian's arms up nicely, riding the inevitable pull-down attempt into Kokkai's body to push him out. To be fair to Kokkai, he didn't stand a chance today with Tama-chan going so early. Both rikishi are 3-1.

M8 Dejima has been enjoying a great start to the Haru Basho. But let's not forget what happened after he did the same in January. M9 Tochinonada managed to stifle that driving tachiai for once in his life and turned the bout into a stalemate. Three ice ages later we finally saw some action as Tochinonada did what any belt specialist should do: force his opponent upright and then reverse the momentum abruptly to win by shitatenage. Dejima (3-1) rarely wins this type of bout, particularly against belt fighters like his opponent today, and so will probably just put this one down to experience. Tochi goes to 3-1 and is looking as solid as ever.

I meant (but forgot) to record last basho my disagreement with Martin's assessment of M11 Kakuryu. Although I'm by no means a fan of his occasionally slapdash sumo, he nevertheless has the technical ability to trick his way to a kachi-koshi in the lower ranks anytime. Basically, he is Tokitenku as he was when he first entered Makuuchi. And at 22, Kakuryu can only get better. Today's bout showed exactly what I mean; despite losing the tachiai, he kept away from the clueless M10 Kasuganishiki, allowing his opponent to defeat himself, eventually pulling him down for hikiotoshi. Kakuryu is a mid-Maegashira guy who might even go higher with more bulk and experience. To say he will drop to Juryo on the basis of a few lackluster performances in his first big-time basho is just way too hasty. I hope I haven't just jinxed him! Kakuryu remains unbeaten at 4-0. Kasuganishiki looks very poor indeed at 0-4.

I have to say I'm a big fan of M14 Tochiohzan (3-1), who made short work of M16 Wakanosato (2-2) today, coming in low and, more importantly, keeping that centre of gravity down. Just watch the way he moves day in and day out, employing a style which allows him to keep bouts under control. He fights as everyone should, from the lower body up. Watch this guy – he has the tools to go to the top. And he's only just turned 20. Pinch me!

So we have two unbeaten leaders – Tochiazuma and Kakuryu – with a host of others one step behind. It is still early days, and the Yokozuna knows that Kakuryu will drop bouts, as will Tochiazuma if he really is injured (although he looks fine to me). You have to say at this stage that Tochiazuma is the favourite to go all the way – he does have the experience, after all - with Hakuho and Asa likely to shadow him to the end, assuming, of course, that Hakuho stops fighting like a muppet. Other rikishi that have impressed me so far: Tochiohzan, Dejima, Miyabiyama and Toyonoshima. Villains: well, obviously Roho and Hakurozan. Also Kasuganishiki and Jumonji.

Bernie reels around the fountain tomorrow. And if you were wondering about Clancy, he's in Hades with Kenji. I'll be back sometime next week.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Was it me or did Asashoryu's win on day 3 suddenly cast a pall over this basho? While I'm still extremely optimistic, the arena in Osaka went dead silent after Asashoryu wasted no time at the tachi-ai forcing his way into the hidari-yotsu position and demanding the right frontal belt grip using it to lift M4 Futenoh straight up before driving him back and out with emphasis in a flawless, overpowering display of sumo. Even the man in the golden hat didn't have a chance to wave his gold fan around in hope today, but Asashoryu is not quite out of the woods yet. A loss to Toyonoshima on day 4 would almost force the Yokozuna to withdraw citing this phantom injury or that. Camp Asa was already in damage control mode after the loss on day 2 leaking to the press that the Yokozuna came down with a serious cold the night before the basho started. Reportedly a doctor was called to the stable and he administered an intravenous drip to the Yokozuna for an hour and a half.

That's one excuse, and there's also a handful of old injuries that could be drummed up like the report about a week ago where the Yokozuna said he felt a numbness in his neck and right shoulder while losing to Kotooshu four straight times in the practice ring. All Yokozuna enjoy the luxury of being able to take off a basho whenever they see fit, but Asashoryu really needs to win tomorrow to keep this thing going. Public relations-wise, it would be a disaster to have the man accused of fixing bouts go 1-3 and then withdraw the first basho after the allegations arise, especially when they're just about to take this thing to court. Kitanoumi Rijicho and Kokonoe-oyakata were gripping extremely hard after day 2 as they understand the full implications of what's going on. Both men commented on Asashoryu's weak tachi-ai the first two days, but the Yokozuna gave them hope on day 3 by demanding the perfect position he could use to win without any fear of losing against Futenoh. Up tomorrow is Toyonoshima, who admitted his trepidation at facing the Yokozuna prior to the basho, but who has also looked fearless in jumping out to a 3-0 start. There should be plent of drama on day 4 surrounding the Yokozuna so stay tuned. And copy and paste this one in your book because you ain't never gonna read it again: Asashoryu moves to 1-2 with the win.

Moving onto the other rikishi, Ozeki Kotooshu used a tachi-ai henka to his left against M4 Takekaze. Hold on...let me check my facts. A tachi-ai henka against Takekaze? What a shame. The pint-size rikishi read the move well, however, and speared Kotooshu in the torso with his head before Kotooshu could even grab a belt grip. Takekaze errored, however, by going for a counter pull-down instead of just driving Oshu back and out. How effectively are you going to be pulling down a dude 30 centimeters taller than you when he's standing upright? Not very. When Takekaze's pull failed to do any damage, Kotooshu displayed how the pull is really supposed to happen easily yanking Takekaze down to the dirt. Bad win for Kotooshu, who can't start resorting to these tactics so early and against such shabby rikishi. So much for that confidence I hoped was there coming into the basho. Both rikishi are 2-1, but Takekaze was clearly the confident one today.

Ozeki Kaio was burned today by a tachi-ai henka from Komusubi Tokitenku, who moved to his right a half step at the tachi-ai and easily shoved the compromised Kaio out in two seconds flat. Tokitenku's well on his way to a shukunsho award if he can win eight, but I hate to see him do it with this kind of sumo. Nut up and fight your opponents straight forward. Kaio falls to 1-2, but there's nuttin' he could have done today. Too bad. Tokitenku is 2-1.

Look at Ozeki Tochiazuma pulling the wool over everyone's eyes meekly declaring prior to the basho that he would retire if he started out 1-4. I, for one, took the bait, and apparently so did his opponents. Today, Komusubi Ama just bounced off of the Ozeki at the tachi-ai, and Tochiazuma moved forward well for the kill, but Ama danced to his left around the perimeter of the ring guided nicely by a Tochiazuma ottsuke push at the side of the shoulder. On the other side of the dohyo, Tochiazuma nearly finished off his bidness with a vicious paw to Ama's neck, but the Mongolian somehow survived and forced the bout into a migi-yotsu stalemate back in the center of the ring with Ama actually enjoying a left outer grip. After both rikishi tested the waters with mock throw attempts, Ama finally planted his left foot and went for the uwate-nage, but Tochiazuma was rooted to the dirt too deeply and easily staved off the attack. With Ama now compromised and having used a good deal of strength, the Ozeki grabbed his own left outer grip and forced Ama back to the tawara, over, and down for a beautiful yori-taoshi win. Injury-shminjury. There's no way a hobbled rikishi could have kept up with Ama today as Tochiazuma did. Props to Tochiazuma for parlaying the injury card into a 3-0 start. Ama falls to 1-2 but fought the good fight.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai put a firm stop to Kasugao's mini-run by using his usual shoves to keep the Korean far from his belt at the tachi-ai and then continuing the tsuppari onslaught to push Kasugao off balance and out to the side near the head judge for an easy victory. Chiyotaikai's tsuppari attack hasn't been powerful so far, but it's been feisty enough that his opponents haven't been able to get much going because they've got to dodge those bothersome thrusts. Both rikishi are 2-1.

Ozeki Hakuho and M3 Miyabiyama treated us to a great chess match today where Hakuho seemed content standing toe to toe with Miyabiyama in a tsuppari duel. Back and forth both rikishi went with Miyabiyama too slow to catch and corner the Ozeki and Hakuho's shoves too weak to really move Miyabiyama around. After 12 seconds or so of pushing, Hakuho made the wise attempt to grab Miyabi's belt, and he actually got it, but Miyabiyama quickly wiped it away forcing the two to continue their shoving match. With both rikishi nearing exhaustion, Hakuho went for a pull down at the same time Miyabiyama attempted a shoulder slap. The result was both rikishi crashing to the dirt with Miyabiyama's left leg touching down before Hakuho's right leg...barely (see picture at right...Hakuho's the one with no head). Despite the referee making the correct call and video replay showing the Hakuho was the winner, a mono-ii was called and a rematch called for. I didn't have a huge problem with the decision because Hakuho didn't exactly overpower his opponent, but I think it was due to a bit of favoritism for the native rikishi.

At any rate, in the rematch Hakuho wisely ducked down a bit and went straight for the belt at the tachi-ai. He succeeded in grabbing the quick right inner grip followed by a left paw to the throat that stood Miyabiyama upright. As the M3 tried to counter with some tsuppari, Hakuho ducked out of the way causing Miyabiyama to lunge into thin air. From there it was an easy push out from behind for Hakuho who survives a bit of a scare to improve to 2-1. Miyabiyama falls to 1-2 but has fought well the last two days. I'm encouraged by his tsuppari attack of late. His being out of shape probably decided his fate today in the first match, and it definitely left him at a disadvantage in the rematch.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki has looked solid the first three days, but he hasn't exactly dismantled some rough company (his opponents are a combined 1-8). Today against M2 Asasekiryu, Mitsuki forced the quick migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and attacked low enough that Asasekiryu couldn't quite grab a left outer girp of his own. Kotomitsuki quickly grabbed a solid left outer grip to complement his right inner, and despite an attempt by Asasekiryu to spin Mitsuki off balance, the Sekiwake dug in and seized total control of the bout. Kotomitsuki probably took a bit longer than he needed too, but in the end, he wrenched Seki upright with the right arm under his armpit and then forced the Mongolian back and out leading with that right outer grip. Perfect stuff from Kotomitsuki who jumps out to 3-0. Seki ain't so sexy at 0-3.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku was manhandled today by M1 Toyonoshima, who used a confident charge at the tachi-ai to burrow himself in deep against the Geeku's torso and grab a decisive right inner grip. Kotoshogiku attempted to counter with a right outer, but all that did was give Toyonoshima an inner grip on the left side as well otherwise known as the moro-zashi position. Toyonoshima used his lower body brilliantly to mount the force-out charge constantly wrenching Kotoshogiku and keeping his feet moving to the extent where the Geeku could only offer a half-assed pull down attempt at the tawara. No matter...the bout was already too far gone in Toyonoshima's favor who rockets out to a 3-0 start. Kotoshogiku hasn't seemed to make any good decisions thus far highlighted by the error today of going for the right outer grip to give Toyonoshima the easy moro-zashi. That 0-3 start has gotta suck.

In the Maegashira ranks, M1 Kisenosato clashed with M2 Kyokutenho in a grand yotsu-zumo contest that saw the two rikishi hooking up in the hidari-yotsu position with the Kid maintaining the advantage via a firm right outer grip. Tenho actually did a nice job to try and drum up some offense, but Kisenosato's footing was too solid, and he wisely kept the left side of his butt extended way back to deny his opponent a right grip of his own. Knowing he had no chance of winning as is, Kyokutenho (0-3) went for a maki-kae that failed and gave Kisenosato the chance to attack. The youngster pounced on his veteran opponent and swung him toward the rope before forcing him across. This was a dandy bout, and we couldn't have asked for better effort from both parties. The Kid moves to 2-1.

M5 Homasho secured a quick left outer grip against M7 Roho, but Homey's style is not the dig-in yotsu-zumo contest, especially against a rikishi more powerful than himself. With the left uwate, Homasho did the only thing he could, which was try to force Roho back and out, the but Russian was just too strong, and after standing his ground near the edge thanks to a nifty right inner grip of his own, Roho forced the action back to the center of the ring and then spun Homasho across and down with that right inner. This was a perfect example of Roho's power; unfortunately, he normally doesn't choose to exert himself until his back is against the it was today after an 0-2 start. Homasho falls to the same 1-2 record.

M6 Takamisakari picked up an easy win today by actually displaying a decent tachi-ai that knocked M5 Tamakasuga back a step. Tama opted to stand his ground and hope for some sort of position inside instead of evading around the ring in an effort to open up a tsuppari attack, but it would prove to be a mistake as the Robocop easily slapped his opponent down for the uneventful win. Hardly worth talking about as both rikishi are 1-2.

M6 Kakizoe deserved his loss today after a mediocre tachi-ai and then quick abandonment of his forward-moving attack against M8 Tamanoshima. As he slowly back-pedaled, Zoe floundered on a few of those mystery pull attempts where you swipe down on your opponent's chest, and Tamanoshima thankfully ended the funny bidness by stepping forward and slapping his opponent down by the neck. I'd love to read the email from Kakizoe's missus after this bout. Both dudes are 2-1.

M7 Kokkai has yet to smash an opponent back from the tachi-ai and shove him out in seconds with the wingspan tsuppari, but he's still winning. Today against M9 Aminishiki he delivered a great tachi-ai shoving Aminishiki back a full step, but instead of continuing the charge, he hunkered down with his head low and arms extended guaranteeing that his opponent wouldn't get to his belt. Of the two grapplers, Aminishiki went for the weak pull down first swiping at Kokkai's shoulder, but the Georgian easily shrugged that away going for a pull down of his own yanking at the back of Aminishiki's head and hooking an arm up around his shoulder to send him down to the clay with brute force. Kokkai is 3-0 if you need him. Aminishiki is 0-3.

M10 Kasuganishiki is a lot like Tochinohana. Both rikishi have near-perfect sumo bodies, they're tall, they have long arms, and they both stink. Sure, they can reach the Makuuchi ranks on their physical attributes alone, but we rarely see good sumo from either of them. Today against M8 Dejima, Kasuganishiki actually executed a tachi-ai henka to his left, but he didn't do anything to capitalize. You can't beat Dejima with a tachi-ai henka? To Dejima's credit, he wasn't fazed by the move and steered the train nicely right into Kasuganishiki's mid-section and drove him back and out easily to pick up his slick third win. The hapless Kasuganishiki is 0-3.

M11 Iwakiyama's tachi-ai was just too weak today against M11 Tochinonada allowing the gentle giant to secure the quick morozashi and force Iwakiyama back and out without argument. Iwakiyama's struggles continue at 1-2. Nada is 2-1.

M12 Yoshikaze finally got off the snide today against M10 Tokitsuumi by pressing the attack with some shoves at the tachi-ai followed by that same phantom pull of his opponent's chest I mentioned in the Kakizoe bout where the rikishi don't pull at the back of the head or neck, rather they swipe down at the chest. I don't know how it's possible for that move to have any effect, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work half the time, and lucky for Yoshikaze, it worked today. Deduct your own conclusions as to whether or not the fix was on, but both rikishi are 1-2.

M11 Kakuryu looked great today once again fighting M13 Hakurozan. The Mongolian grabbed the early right outer grip and dug in unable to manhandle the beast directly back and out. Hakurozan pressed the action first with his decent inner left arm position, but Kakuryu timed it perfectly retreating as his opponent pushed giving the impression that he was in trouble and then suddenly pivoting out of the way at the straw and swinging Hakurozan around and out with the right outer grip. That was a crafty move for Kakuryu who shines at 3-0. Hakurozan falls to 1-2.

M12 Ushiomaru looked to have the upperhand from the tachi-ai against M14 Tochiohzan disallowing the rookie's favored migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Tochiohzan dug in well and managed a right outer grip that he quickly used to swing the attacking Ushiomaru around toward the straw where he then forced him out with ease. Tochiohzan barely lost to the 3-0 Shimotori yesterday, so at 2-1, he's off to a fantastic start. The Ushi falls to 1-2.

M14 Tosanoumi controlled his bout with M16 Jumonji (1-2) throughout using a solid tachi-ai and push attack to drive Jumonji to the bales before switching gears and pulling the defensive-minded Jumonji forward and down. Tosanoumi moves to 2-1.

In a rather good bout low in the ranks between undefeated rikishi, M16 Wakanosato and M15 Shimotori traded a few shoves before hooking up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai. Wakanosato went for a maki-kae and got it giving him the morozashi position, but Shimotori's double outer grips were too tight to allow Wakanosato to get deep inside and force his opponent out. After a 10 second stalemate, Wakanosato released his grip and went for a right-handed scoop throw at the edge, but Shimotori's left outer grip was just too solid and he dumped Wakanosato out with ease.

And finally, remember good ol' Kaiho, the guy who put his foot on backwards against Iwakiyama last year in Nagoya? Up from Juryo to fight M15 Tochinohana, he just reached around with his left arm at the tachi-ai to grab the uwate using it to swing Tochinohana around and out in mere seconds. Tochinohana falls to 0-3 with the bad loss.

Oops...I did it again (yes, the reference to one of my favorite Britney Spears songs was intentional!) commenting on every Makuuchi bout whether deserved or not. I know it's early, but I just get the feeling that the yusho line will end this basho at 12-3, which means there are a lot of yusho hopefuls left. Simon checks out of rehab to break it all down tomorrow...shaved head and all!

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The last few years, the Osaka basho has been the most stable, well-fought tournament of the bunch, but the first two days of the 2007 version have revitalized the tag normally associated with Haru as being "wild and unpredictable". Where do I even start? I could touch upon the unbelievable scene of ugliness we saw on day 1, but I know the Nagoya fans get sensitive when I make fun of their ugly geisha, so I'll leave the uba-geisha of Osaka alone. I could also comment on how the folks at Shukan Gendai must be spinning cartwheels over Asashoryu's start, but that still doesn't give them any credibility. I could even discuss the highlight of day 1 for me, which occurred when NHK decided to show the Kotomitsuki - Miyabiyama bout from a different camera angle only to have a vendor walk right in front of the camera the instant the two rikishi clashed in their half-second affair causing the viewing audience to miss the action. But no, let's just focus on the sumo which was remarkably improved on day 2. How can we not start with Asashoryu - Miyabiyama?

Considering the strange events that transpired throughout day 1, you could classify Asashoryu's loss to Tokitenku as a fluke. Tokitenku was obviously not afraid of the Yokozuna, and he even called his shot prior to the basho. That's all fine and dandy, but today's bout against Miyabiyama was no was more like an ass-kicking. From the tachi-ai, the Sheriff was a different man as he attacked slightly to his right and used the lumbering tsuppari to knock the Yokozuna back from the starting lines. With perfect de-ashi leading the charge, Miyabiyama stayed on top of the Yokozuna continuing to pummel at his upper-torso and face. Asashoryu looked to me to have lost his cool a bit because instead of going for the Sheriff's mawashi, he decided to stand toe to toe with the M3 and counter with thrusts of his own. Problem is that's not the Yokozuna's game anymore, especially against a tsuppari specialist like Miyabiyama. In serious trouble and literally on the ropes, Asashoryu tried to quickly evade to his left and time a pull of Miyabiyama, but the Sheriff's momentum was just too strong allowing him to stiff arm the Yokozuna completely off the dohyo as he himself crashed down to the clay. The ending was extremely close, and Asashoryu hurriedly picked himself up off of the arena floor and gazed back at the referee hoping upon hope that the gunbai was pointed in his favor, but no, Miyabiyama was declared the winner. And correctly so.

Replays of the bout showed that Miyabiyama's left hand did indeed touch down on the dohyo's edge before the Yokozuna had landed, but Asashoryu was so far gone that there was no way they could have overturned this one. I've been extremely vocal in the past in bouts such as these when I feel as if the Yokozuna was robbed, but not today. As Martin aptly described in a chat we had after the bout, the Yokozuna was raped the entire way. I know there are some pro-Asashoryu fans out there who will try and point to the close call and say their man was robbed, but take your medicine this time. The Yokozuna was beaten handily. Two problems with the Yokozuna's sumo today. First, his approach at the starting lines deferred the action to Miyabiyama. You know how guys like Kakizoe or Dejima will throw both fists down to the starting lines well before their opponents are ready and just wait? That's what the Yokozuna did today. Okay, he had his left fist I believe maybe a centimeter off the dirt, but he was crouched and ready to go before Miyabiyama was even set. Turn the tables my man. Make Miyabiyama squat first and wait for you. Second, the Yokozuna made the mistake of fighting at Miyabiyama's level. Isn't it a law in sumo that if you grab Miyabiyama's belt you're going to win? Asashoryu knows this of course, but he let that blistering tachi-ai from Miyabiyama get to him, and instead of staying cool and ducking under the thrusts in an attempt to grab the belt, he lost his head and tried to stand toe to toe with the Sheriff and trade blows. Take nothing away from Miyabiyama because he was flawless, but the Yokozuna made several mental mistakes today that contributed to his loss.

Finally, the cause for the mental mistakes? Of course, the Shukan Gendai articles. I know some of you may be thinking, "hmm...maybe Shukan Gendai was right." No. Don't pass judgment on two days' worth of bouts when you have four years worth of history on the other side. Just watch everything play out. All it's gonna take is for Asashoryu to pick up that first win. And with everybody who is somebody already saddled with a loss, the Yokozuna is just one behind. But give the tabloid their just due; they have succeeded in rattling the least for now. Asashoryu has got to step back and realize that he was beaten semi-flukishly (how's that for a word!) on day 1 by a rikishi who isn't afraid of him and beaten on day 2 by a guy who was in the top three of the sport last year. He should settle in tomorrow when he faces Futenoh, a rikishi he practiced heartily with prior to the basho. To put Asashoryu's 0-2 start in perspective, the last time a Yokozuna did it was in Aki 1999 when both the Hanada brothers managed the feat, and the last time Asashoryu himself started out 0-2 was at the 2001 Nagoya basho where he was ranked at Komusubi. Asashoryu has history on his side; he just needs to settle down and start makin' it again.

Let's move on. Prior to the basho, several of Ozeki Hakuho's keiko reports had him practicing a tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai that he would use to set up his opponents. We saw that tactic work today to perfection against Komusubi Tokitenku. Hakuho used a deliberate thrust attack today from the start that had Tokitenku standing upright and looking for some sort of answer. The Ozeki's shoves weren't lethal, but they were powerful enough and methodical enough that Tokitenku could do nothing with them and after about 8 seconds of action, Hakuho timed a perfect lunge at Tokitenku's belt securing left outer and right inner grips that were so smothering, the Komusubi could do nothing and was walked out in a flash for his first loss. This was an excellent effort today for the Ozeki after his hurried debacle on day 1. Both rikishi are 1-1.

Komusubi Ama must have studied the tape of yesterday's Kotooshu - Toyonoshima matchup because he used some tsuppari to Kotooshu's throat at the tachi-ai to stand him upright before ducking inside of the Ozeki for a deep position on the belt. Kotooshu would have nothing of the sort, however, and grabbed a left uwate grip over the top that he wasted no time in using by swinging the Mongolian over and down with great force. This was an impressive win for Kotooshu, who hopefully has gotten back on track and hasn't forgotten that talk of a yusho prior to the basho. Both rikishi are 1-1.

It looked to me as if Ozeki Kaio's tachi-ai was centered on taking away the right kote-nage/uwate attack from M3 Kasugao because the Ozeki made little impact at the tachi-ai unlike his bout the day before against Kyokutenho. And while Kasugao was initially denied his favored position from the get-go, Kaio looked lost after the charge allowing Kasugao to niftily step wide and back to his right and bit timing a perfect--you guessed it--kotenage throw that easily felled Kaio to the dirt. Kasugao has got to be thrilled with his 2-0 start while Kaio's indecision and lack of faith in his own offensive prowess spelled his doom.

Ozeki Tochiazuma implemented the usual low charge with his jaw planted in his chest that left his belt too far back for M2 Kyokutenho to grab. The Mongolian didn't seem hellbent on opting for plan B, so Tochiazuma wrangled a left inner position that he used to set up a flawless force out charge of Tenho in mere seconds. Tochiazuma is well on his way to his magic eight, but he'll disappear after that. I think it says a lot over the first two days that out of all the upsets we've seen from the upper Maegashira ranks, Kyokutenho is still 0-2.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai awoke nicely from his poor start by just blasting M2 Asasekiryu back and out from the tachi-ai. These weren't the two or three tsuppari that the Ozeki times perfectly as he sends his opponent off the dohyo; rather, they were the lightweight dozen or so tsuppari that are just effective and quick enough to give his opponent no place to go but back. Asasekiryu joins Kyokutenho as one of the few winless rikishi.

M4 Takekaze used a rocket tachi-ai to completely stand Sekiwake Kotoshogiku up at the start and drive him back dangerously close the straw. Kotoshogiku halted the charge with a nifty left arm pushing up at Takekaze's right arm pit, but the smaller Takekaze never relented and next locked Kotoshogiku's right arm with both of his own arms and just forced the Sekiwake across the straw for an excellent win. As hot as Takekaze has been the first two days, something is wrong with Kotoshogiku. You've probably noticed the taping on his lower back, but this dude can't hunker down and dig himself into a yotsu-zumo fight. The Geeku is in big trouble having lost to what appeared to be two of the weakest guys in the upper Maegashira.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki raced out to a nice 2-0 start with a long, drawn-out affair today against M4 Futenoh. From the tachi-ai, Kotomitsuki gained the migi yotsu position that he would never relinquish throughout the bout, and even though the rikishi would become separated multiple times in the push-fest, Kotomitsuki always maintained the better positioning that allowed him to regroup in the migi-yotsu position. After nearly two minutes of grappling, Futenoh, who could never overcome the Sekiwake's advantageous position, was worn out and allowed himself to get spun around before being pushed out from behind. This was close for Futenoh, who falls to 0-2, but he was just bested by the veteran Mitsuki who patiently relied on that migi-yotsu position.

Toyonoshima has to be elated over his 2-0 start from the M1 rank, especially following his dismal keiko sessions prior to the basho. After throwing Kotooshu in brilliant fashion yesterday, he kept the action in tight today against M5 Tamakasuga moving the veteran rikishi around the ring with a conservative tsuppari attack where it wasn't so much Toyonoshima's thrusts dictating the movement as it was Tamakasuga's looking for some sort of opening. It never came, and with Tamakasuga evading this way and that, Toyonoshima managed a slap from the side that turned Tamakasuga around setting up the easy okuri-dashi win at the straw. Toyonoshima had done so far exactly what a rikishi from this position has to do, which is pick off a few rikishi above you and defeat the rikishi ranked below you.

In the most anticipated bout in the Maegashira ranks, M5 Homasho used his low position to completely frustrate M1 Kisenosato's charge limiting it to a tsuppari attack, something that Kisenosato isn't used to. Kisenosato looked to have the edge throughout, but the stubborn Homasho never relinquished any turf. After about 10 seconds of fending off Kisenosato's tsuppari, Homasho forced the bout to the grapplin' position with the action stopped and both rikishi bent over low. From here, Homasho timed a left inner grip and right pull at the back of Kisenosato's belt to topple him to the clay. Kisenosato's spill looked more the result of bad footwork than an actual technique applied by Homasho, but nevertheless, both rikishi stand at 1-1.

M7 Roho's sumo so far has been just plain lazy. I can already tell you that he's of the mindset that he can just show up and win this low in the ranks. Not so today against M6 Kakizoe, who neither secured morozashi nor touched Roho's belt from the tachi-ai; rather, he used a left arm in Roho's right pit to just force him to the side and down. This was yet another case of Roho not being prepared and underestimating his opponent. Kakizoe will be thrilled to take his 2-0 record home to the new missus, who sounds like a real bruiser. Wonder who wears the pants in that family? Roho should be ashamed at his 0-2 start.

M7 Kokkai used another smashing tachi-ai today against M6 Takamisakari to stand him straight up (course, who doesn't stand Takamisakari straight up at the charge?) leading with a right paw to the throat. The Cop quickly recovered, but Kokkai greeted him with a deep right inner grip secured at the back of Takamisakari's belt. Normally, you don't want to see Kokkai fight at the belt, but his grip was so powerful, he was able to drive his opponent back with some force. Takamisakari tried to grab that uwate over the top as he retreated, and then he went for that desperate counter ottsuke at the tawara, but in the process his left leg gave out and he hit the dirt a split second before Kokkai belly-flopped to the clay himself. Regardless of how ugly it's been, Kokkai is a swell 2-0 while Takamisakari remains winless.

M9 Tochinonada looked for his usual left inner grip from the tachi-ai, but M8 Tamanoshima's charge had too much pop, and as Tochinonada lowered his head in an attempt for force his way in close, Tamanoshima executed a perfect pull down of his compromised opponent. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M8 Dejima was all business again today using his freight train charge to drive M9 Aminishiki back immediately from the tachi-ai, but as he usually does, the former Ozeki committed too early to the move and was nearly thrown down to the dirt with a well-timed right counter scoop throw form Aminishiki at the edge, but Dejima managed to keep his balance just enough to allow the retreating Aminishiki (0-2) to step out first. Dejima's 2-0, but look where that fast start got him last basho.

While it seems M11 Kakuryu has yet to really settle into a style in this division, his quickness is allowing him to survive. Today against M10 Tokitsuumi, the Mongolian used a few tsuppari at the tachi-ai but then focused on the belt grabbing an early left uwate that he would never relinquish. Where some rikishi would have relaxed with the grip and dug in, Kakuryu wisely kept Tokitsuumi (1-1) moving to the point where both rikishi found themselves at the straw with Kakuryu in the better position. It was an easy force-out from there for Kakuryu who was flawless today moving to 2-0.

M11 Iwakiyama is struggling mightily these days, so it was probably nice to see M10 Kasuganishiki across the starting lines. Iwakiyama (1-1) used a wicked left shoulder into his opponent's face at the charge followed by a perfectly-timed right paw to the jaw that completely threw Kasuganishiki's footing off balance causing him to slip to the dirt as he tried to plant his right foot exhibiting nicely that glass jaw of his. Kasuganishiki is 0-2.

M12 Yoshikaze repented from his tachi-ai yesterday and came out firing tsuppari into M13 Hakurozan's upper torso that kept the Russian at bay. The problem was Yoshikaze didn't commit himself to the push attack and left too much distance between himself and his opponent. Hakurozan countered with some lame, flat-footed pull attempts, but Yoshikaze's hesitance to commit to his oshi attack disabled him from capitalizing on his opponent's position. Finally, Yoshikaze abandoned the oshi attack and rushed in for moro-zashi, but before he could get firmly set, Hakurozan pivoted to his right unleashing a swift kotenage throw sending Yoshikaze to the dirt and a frustrating 0-2 mark. The move wouldn't have worked on a larger rikishi, but Hakurozan is now 2-0.

M14 Tosanoumi used a renewed oshi charge from the tachi-ai to keep M12 Ushiomaru away from his belt, and while Tosanoumi didn't drive Ushiomaru back, he flustered him to the point that he was easy pull down fodder after three seconds. Both dudes are 1-1.

M14 Tochiohzan looked to have the distinct advantage after surging into M15 Shimotori and immediately driving him back to the straw, but you could tell Shimotori has been in the bidness awhile because he masterfully timed an ottsuke with the right hand while retreating that left Tochiohzan committing the bulk of his attack into thin air. How fitting was it that the former Takanonami was in the booth for this one because this was a perfect counter sumo from the veteran Shimotori. How often do we say it where the Makuuchi rookie gets burned time and time again by these veteran moves? Shimotori is 2-0 while Tochiohzan suffers his first loss. And speaking of Takanonami in the broadcast booth, did anyone notice his slurred speech? You may recall last year that Otowayama-oyakata was hospitalized with heart problems I believe, and the dude nearly died. It's good to see him back to work, but I'm pretty sure I noticed a difference in his speech.

In the I-can't-believe-I'm-even-commenting-on-this department, M16 Jumonji used a tachi-ai henka to his right and pull attempt that was cheaper than a polyester suit to easily defeat Tochinohana 0-2.

Finally, veteran M16 Wakanosato withstood J1 Hochiyama's genki charge by patiently keep his arms in tight and gaining the hidari-yotsu position near the straw. The former Sekiwake went for his patented scoop throw, and even though the move failed, Hochiyama was off balance and rattled enough that Wakanosato managed the right outer grip, which he would eventually use to throw Hochiyama down to the clay with some mustard. Wakanosato is off to a nice 2-0 start.

Well, there you have it...all 21 bouts. The problem with day 1 of this basho is everyone who is anyone lost negating the Yokozuna's day 1 blunder and dropping the yusho line to 14-1 at best. Now, with Asashoryu's second loss, you've got a few rikishi who are one bout ahead, but there's just too much sumo to go. I think we'll have a nice yusho run in the end, but I wouldn't be surprised if the yusho rikishi walks away with a sloppy 12-3 record.

See ya'll at the ho-down tomorrow. I'll provide the music by playin' the mouthharp and blowin' in muh jug. 

Day 1 Comments (George Guida reporting)
Day One of the Haru basho, post-Shukan Gendai scandal, was a doozy. Three Ozeki went down. The Yokozuna lost in a shocker. In all, it was a great day to make one forget about all the nonsense and ugly accusations of yaocho in between basho.

I loved Tokitenku's calling out of Asashoryu before the basho. It was brash, some may say brazen, but it gives the sport some desperately needed spice. Although the match didn't go anywhere near as Tokitenku planned, Toki did a lot better than securing migi-yotsu--he got the Yokozuna to surrender his back. After only a second's worth of jockeying for position at the tachi-ai, Tokitenku reached over Asa's head with his right arm and pulled him down towards the bales. Asa countered with a modified kubi-nage/headlock with his right arm, but Tokitenku walked the bales and dragged Asa with him as both rikishi fought each other virtually side-by-side. Sensing the bad position he was in, Asa tried one of his lighting quick pivots to escape danger, but Tokitenku latched on from behind and secured a from-behind waist lock, having the Yokozuna dead to rights. Asa brought the action back to the center and frantically tried to break Toki's grip. And once again, even in defeat, Asashoryu's instincts continued to amaze. Blind to his opponent, giving up his back, waist locked from behind and his torso at an awkward angle after trying to explode free, he still managed an inside leg trip from behind that caught Tokitenku, only to see Asashoryu hit the dirt first and give his judo senpai an amazing, and unheard of, okuri-taoshi win over the Yokozuna. 

This basho is still Asashoryu's. The only two legitimate threats, Hakuho and Kotooshu, both lost today so Asa doesn't have any major ground to cover. 

M1 Kisenosato had an answer for just about everything that Ozeki Hakuho could throw his way. In an excellent display of offensive sumo by Hakuho and counter sumo by Kisenosato, Kisenosato used a migi-uwate grip to stuff both uwate-nage and sukui-nage attempts from Hakuho. When Hakuho exploded with a bull rush to drive Kise out, Kise countered with exquisite timing, wrenching Hakuho's head down with his right arm while using his left to swat down his left shoulder blade for a most impressive tsuki-otoshi win. 

Ozeki Chiyotaikai's quads were on Quaaludes today, as the Ozeki had absolutely nothing going with his leg drive or his tsuppari, which didn't connect on anything but mostly air, giving M1 Ama a remarkably easy win via oshi-dashi when Chiyo resorted to his ever-so-predictable pull down.

The Sadogatake boys are running roughshod at Haru, setting up prime real estate throughout sumo's top ranks with Kotooshu and Kotomitsuki at Sekiwake and Kotooshu at Ozeki. In the biggest upset of the day, M1 Toyonoshima bested Ozeki Kotooshu at his own game, as a throwdown in the center of the dohyo went unexpectedly in Toyo's favor. Kotooshu entered Haru gunning for a yusho and from all the hype I've been reading on the keiko reports, Kotooshu seemed prime to shake things up. Immediately after the tachi-ai Koto secured a deep migi-uwate while Toyo countered with a hidari-shitate of his own, and when you factor that this match up sports one of the biggest height differentials possible, only interesting things can happen. If anything, Koto overcompensated on his throw, looking like he threw himself more than Toyonoshima overpowering him. Let's not take anything away, however, from Toyo's sumo; it's not often you see a healthy, motivated Kotooshu lose a throwing contest at the belt

Ozeki Kaio was a pure thoroughbred today, hooking morozashi under the lanky M2 Kyokutenho's arms to effortlessly bulldoze the Mongolian out via yorikiri. It's the most nimble I've seen Kaio off the tachi-ai in some time. It also helps that Kaio owns Kyokutenho to the score of 24-4 in total match ups.

Tochiazuma is putting his career on the line if he doesn't come out of the gates like gangbusters. That sounds like a "loser leaves town" stipulation straight out of pro wrestling. With recent accusations of worked matches and Tokitenku cutting a promo on Asashoryu, sumo is turning more into pro wrestling every minute. Anyway, the Ozeki couldn't have asked for a better start, as M2 Asa had no answer for a straight-on oshi-dashi assault that was almost too easy. 

Asasekiryu will be a key rikishi to watch this tournament. At M2, he's in the perfect position to give stablemate Asashoryu some breathing room. Given that none of the Sado boys can face each other, this opens things wide up for Asasekiryu to cherry-pick a few vulnerable rikishi in the sanyaku ranks. 

In the worst match of the day, Sekiwake Kotomitsuki quickly slapped down M3 Miyabiyama for a very unconvincing, lame, uninspiring hataki-komi shiro-boshi.

Kotoshogiku, obviously feeling the sanyaku pressure, gave up his right side too easily, falling prey to M3 Kasugao's game as he allowed the Korean an easy shitate-grip. Kasugao's shitate-nage had neither velocity nor violence, but the mechanics were beautiful, executing the throw from an extremely low position as both rikishi seemed to be hovering no more than six inches off the dohyo.

How do rikishi get psyched up for a match? For M7 Kokkai, having the pressure of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashivili in attendance, who looked simply Saaka-chivalrous in his pinstripes, seemed to do the trick. Hey, if this your only chance to meet the Prez, you better win. And win Kokkai did, despite M7 Roho muscling out of a megaton uwate-nage attempt. So give a Seig Heil to Mikheil and tell Putin and Roho that this is how Georgia represents on the dohyo. Georgia on my mind, indeed.

A new pot belly for M6 Takamisakari couldn't prevent Robocop's sumo from going to pot as M6 Kakizoe secured a quick morozashi, followed by his patented belly thrust and then a shove for good measure to score an oshi-dashi win. By the way, we learned today that Kakizoe is a newlywed and let's just say he's 100% sumo through and through. Instead of snagging some petite, slinky, sexy hot little J-bird like a few good rikishi have been known to do, his new blushing bride is none other than a women's sumo amateur champion. We can speculate what kind of kimarite may be used in the honeymoon suite, but those imaginings are best left for Clancy to explore.

Textbook "Deru Deru Dejima" (and that cutesy nickname has to go) was on display as the M8 rikishi made short work of M8 Tamanoshima, driving him out with a thunderous leg drive to pick up an oshi-dashi win. These two rikishi seem to ride the biggest fluctuations every basho between jo'i and the bottom rungs of the Makuuchi ladder.

M4 Takekaze was in near perfect form today, walking right over M4 Futenoh and pushing him around like it was nobody's business to snag a shiro-boshi by oshi-dashi. Truly a rare sight to see Futenoh schooled so easily.

And what of the highly touted newcomer, M14 Tochiohzan? His sumo: solid. A straightforward, aggressive series of shoulder and forearm thrusts to the belly of the beast, M13 Hakurozan, got him his first win in sumo's top division via yori-kiri. His self-introduction video: shabby. Sleepy-eyed, disheveled and sweaty is no way to go through life, son. His video debut went something like this: "Hi, I'm Tochiohzan from Kasugano stable, and I come from a sleepy town in Kochi prefecture that you've never heard of. Thank you for your support." This was exactly NOT the way to get yourself over. Tell me that you have been sent on a mission by the Emperor himself to eradicate the foreigner presence from sumo. Tell me that the Juryo ranks were a joke and you're looking for competition. Tell me that Asashoryu's days are numbered and that soon the Yokozuna will be tying the rope around your waist. Make me care, Tochi. Make me care.

Mike makes you care tomorrow. 


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